A paid leave checklist

Reasons to weigh the costs and implications of implementing a policy now, rather than waiting for a possible legal mandate

Mandated paid leave laws are popping up everywhere, and it’s not just a “California thing.”

New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts, to name a few states, have launched paid leave laws. Some of the new and proposed paid leave legislation focuses on sick leave, while others focus on maternity leave This topic is also hitting close to home. Last year, the NH House voted down a bill that would mandate paid sick leave.

The White House claims these laws have not had any negative impact on employers. According to a fact sheet issued by the White House, “Two years after passage of a law requiring workers to earn paid sick days in Connecticut, more than three-quarters of employers responding to a survey indicated that they supported the new law, and employers reported that there was little or no negative effects of the new law on their bottom line.”

Most business owners with fewer than 50 employees with whom we speak don’t like the government telling them what to do. We often hear from clients that they like to determine the benefits they offer to employees rather than be told what to offer.

Let’s explore some reasons to weigh the pros and cons of implementing a paid leave policy now rather than waiting to be told to do so – without a choice.

When working with clients, one of the first places we start is understanding their core values and culture. This guides us in the development of the work we do for them. For example, if one of a client’s core values is a “family-friendly workplace,” then entertaining the idea of paid leave policy may make sense to include in their employee handbook. 

Other considerations include:

 • Recruiting. Currently we have very low unemployment, and we have found ourselves in an “employee’s market,” making the right talent harder to hire. Having additional policies, such as paid leave, may set you apart from your competitors who are also recruiting from the same talent pool. (Note: the decision to implement paid leave should be made for the long term. Once the market changes make sure this policy is sustainable for your workplace.)

 • Retention. Demonstrating you are a family-friendly workplace not only with your words but your actions may tip the scales enough to prevent some of your talent from looking for other opportunities. Again, make sure you can sustain this policy into the future.

Committing to a paid leave model can be costly and tough to budget for, since you have no idea when someone may use the leave. Enter unpaid leave. Sometimes employees just want to have the ability to take time off when needed without fear of reprisal or being viewed as a “slacker.” Unpaid leave can still send a powerful message to your team.

When developing handbooks for clients, we review a host of potential policies for inclusion. One is parental leave. Leaves for newborns are typically focused on mom. But what about dad? More and more new dads are taking leave too. A high profile example of this was Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg. He took two months off after his daughter was born. While financially he was in a position to do this, I applaud him nonetheless. The world is changing, and he is a shining example of dads getting more involved at home and with their kids.

Not all of your employees have children, but many still have needs to take time off for things like taking care of aging parents, an ill family member or taking their dog to the vet. In speaking with employees at our client’s companies, we sometimes hear, “I have to pick up the slack for my peers because they have kids, but what about me?” These employees are voicing their concerns because they still have needs to take care of outside of work but their needs are often overlooked for those who do have children to care for.

Most of the mandated paid leave discussion focuses on sick leave/medical leave, but consider other options including maternity/paternity leave (including adoption/foster parenting), education/sabbatical and volunteer work

The takeaway? Wherever you land on this topic, it’s important to have a clear policy in place, including that when new employees are eligible for leave, do they continue to pay for their portion of health insurance while they are out, and what happens if the employee does not return from leave? 

Delise West, president and founder of Human Resource Partners, Concord and Dover, can be reached at 603-749-8989 or through h-rpartners.com. 

Categories: Business Advice