Having a baby, especially your first one, can be scary. Add in the stress of a day-to-day job, the questions about your career — Can I still be on the fast track after I have the baby? How do I do all of this “lean in” stuff? — and the unknown of what the maternity leave policy at your company really entails, and it’s a lot.
Many people don’t pay a lot of attention to maternity leave policy until they find out that their little bundle of joy is on the way. As an HR professional, you need to be prepared to answer these questions to be supportive of and to help retain some of your most talented employees. It can cost 1.5 to 2 times the salary of senior leaders to replace them, and 70 percent of the salary for team members, according to WorkplaceDynamics.
The logistics of maternity leave vary widely among companies in the U.S. At one end of the spectrum are companies that offer no leave beyond what might be mandated by FMLA. (The United States is one of the few industrialized countries that does not have mandated paid maternity leave.) At the other end of the spectrum are companies like The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which offers a full year of paid paternity leave. Tech behemoths like Netflix, Facebook and Google offer generous parental leave policies as well.
Most companies fall somewhere in between, but there are a variety of things you can do in addition to your policy to make new and even experienced mothers feel comfortable and welcome them back after their maternity leave or leave of absence.
Be sure that your parental leave policy is included with all your new hire information, and reiterate it when you are officially informed that an employee is expecting a baby. You can even make a congratulatory gesture. KPMG, for example, offers new parent coaching to help before, during the leave and after the parent returns to work.
Offer telecommuting, flexible schedules, part-time work or job sharing. Communicate these clearly before an employee leaves for their time out of the office so they are fully aware of their options once they return to work.
Many parents leave work for an extended period to raise a family. When they decide to return to work, companies often ask about most recent salary history. Several states are banning this question as part of the interview process. For some people, their last job could have been quite a while ago, so it would be unfair to shackle a new or returning employee to an old salary. Price the job for the position, not the person.
Raising a family is one of the most important undertakings of a person’s life. Make sure your company is aware of all the best practices regarding maternity leave or leave of absence that can be implemented to improve employee satisfaction and retention.
Happy Mother’s Day, moms!
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