How to Handle Parental Leave

Simply congratulating employees on their pregnancy or that of their spouses, though thoughtful, is not all that is necessary when handling such situations. Employers should have legally sound, consistent policies set in place to allow employees an adequate amount of time when choosing parental leave.

While offering your staff paid maternity leave is not mandatory, as no federal laws require you to do so, most companies comply with the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act in order to avoid any complications when dealing with pregnancies in the workplace. A woman cannot be denied a job or promotion purely due to the fact that she is pregnant, nor can she be forced to go on leave, assuming she is still physically able to perform her job responsibilities. In summary, pregnant employees are to be treated no differently than their coworkers.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act has a number of other provisions for employees who are expecting such as allowing single women who are pregnant the same maternity benefits as those who are married, allowing those on maternity leave to use their vacation days, and disallowing employers to force pregnant employees to purchase family insurance policies.

Employers must all consider the fact that pregnant employees can take leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act, which allows them 12 weeks of unpaid leave for birth, adoption, or foster care. This includes caring for a child, an ill spouse or parent, or themselves should they be experiencing a serious health condition. Both mothers and fathers are eligible for FMLA leave any time within the first 12 months of a child’s arrival. If both parents of the child work for the same company however, they are entitled to a combined total of 12 weeks leave.

Complications during pregnancy or prenatal care allow those expecting to take FMLA leave. This could be an injury sustained, illness, or physical or mental impairment that requires continued treatment by the healthcare provider. For example, increased dizziness, nausea, or physical pain exacerbated by pregnancy merits that employee for taking time off. Employers should approach this topic delicately, and approve time off if an employee is experiencing any problems due to her pregnancy.

It is up to an employer when deciding how many days of parental leave a new parent is eligible for. When deciding, make sure your policies are in line with federal and state regulations, which may vary. Going over the proposed benefits with an attorney is also highly recommended.

 
Though not all companies offer paid leave, it’s important to consider the offer. More and more businesses are offering paid maternity leave, as well as paternity leave to their employees; something that should be noted for companies looking to remain competitive in the world of employee retention.

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