Are your employees going on parental leave? Seems like congratulations are in order. It is indeed a happy moment for them. But, at the same time, a slightly worrisome one for you as well. This is because you not only have to find a replacement for them, but also ensure that it is a temporary one.

How do you deal with this kind of leave then? For starters, you plan and then you create contracts that will help retain the right flow of work. From shared parental leave and paid parental leave to unpaid ones, the legal implications, and more, consider this your guide to everything that you need to know to tackle the happy addition and the leave that follows.

What is Parental Leave?

Consider it an extension of maternal leave. The latter has been in existence for giving mothers a break during pregnancy or beyond. On the other hand, parental leave is a more inclusive leave type that can be claimed by both parents. It not only enshrines child-rearing as a gender-neutral activity but also takes adoption into consideration.

The employers can basically give parental leave in three forms; paid, shared, and unpaid, all covered under the leave policy of the organization. This policy is also created after taking the parental leave act and the respective state laws into consideration.

Here are a few clauses to get familiar with when it comes to framing a parental leave policy.

Family Medical Leave Act

As per the Family Medical Leave Act, the federal mandate compels employers to provide the employees with unpaid leave with job security to qualifying parents. This is done with respect to childbirth and even adoption.

Federal Employee Paid Leave Act

As of Oct 2020, the Federal Employee Paid Leave Act has made government paid parental leave available for a certain category of Federal employees, provided they qualify.

Parental leave is allowed for 12 weeks which may be utilized within 12 months of the date of birth, adoption, or placement of the child. This goes for all the qualifying parents, federal employees or not. Also, a private-sector organization with a strength of 50 or more employees has to provide government parental leave as per the norms of the Federal Medical Leave Act.

Overall, providing such leave is in good faith, whether mandated by the government or not. It has numerous benefits for employee morale, work environment and brand building.

What is the Need for Paid Parental Leave?

parental leave

You may think that’s a silly question. But, it is not. This leave is important for a number of reasons and childbirth is one of them. Take a look as we list down some of the scenarios in which your employee may ask for shared parental leave or individual parental leave.

  • Birth of a baby
  • If the employee wishes to spend more time with the kids
  • In the event of the child falling sick and one or both the parents having to stay back
  • If they wish to take their kids to their grandparents
  • If the employee needs time off to arrange for child care
  • In case the employees wish to attend their child’s school events

In some cases, the leave policy may be tweaked and made more lenient, depending on the employees’ situation. For instance, if the child is suffering from a disability, alternative arrangements can be made.

The laws mostly mandate unpaid parental leaves, but the organizations, more often than not, provide paid leaves. Overall, it depends on the policy crafted by the organization after careful consideration and discussion within the top management levels. Whether an employee is eligible for the leave as per the clause of the policy also plays a huge role.

What Makes an Employee Eligible for Parental Leave?

Usually, it is decided on the basis of the policy created by the employer. Further, there are certain legal documents required to prove that the employee is a parent.

  • Legal guardianship papers
  • Parental order in the case of surrogacy
  • Birth certificate
  • Adoption certificate in case of adoption

It is good to have a proper leave policy in place and ensuring that the employees adhere to it. But, the employer cannot dismiss the employees unfairly, just for taking these leaves. The employers have to be fair, at the same time ensuring that work does not suffer. However, there may be a few exceptions when you can actually defer parental leave.

When Can the Employer Postpone Leave with Respect to Parenthood?

parental leave

Employers should not postpone such leaves. But, there are certain circumstances when the employer may defer it a little and ask the employee to be considerate as well.

Parenthood is not a sudden decision. It is a planned one, whether biological or via regulations. Considering that, if your employee tells you a week in advance that they would be becoming a parent and would want to avail leave accordingly, you have a reasonable cause to defer and question the leave.

Another reason may be when the employee asks for an indefinite extension of leave. While a pre-decided leave period is feasible for both the employer and the employee, asking for additional paternity leave or additional leave too many times ultimately leads to losses at work. In that case, the employer reserves the right to refuse the extension or even terminate the work contract after a discussion with the employee.

Ensure that these clauses are a part of the leave policy that you draft, to avoid any legal or even humanitarian crisis later. It is better to have everything down to the word in a contract.

Examples of Paternity Leave Policies

Many global organizations are now successfully adapting the concept. Let’s take a look at two of the most popular ones that are leading the way.

Google Paternity Leave

Google is known for its awesome perks and leaves, along with its diverse work culture. It has been offering paid parental leave for a long time. In fact, it also gives bonuses for a child’s birth. During the global pandemic in 2020, Google made a delightful announcement. It extended its existing paid parental leave by eight weeks, thereby taking the total duration to 14 weeks. The employees can utilize this leave in whichever way they deem fit, either in one go or over a period of time. Further, they can also adjust their working hours, if they want it.

Amazon Paternity Leave

The Amazon paternity leave policy started way back in the year 2015 and has been benefitting parents ever since. In fact, they started off with giving paid maternity leave of 14 weeks for all employees and 20 weeks to those who had been working with the organization for a year or more.

Most of the organizations that started giving parental leave started out with maternity leave. But, what is the difference between the two? Let’s find out.

What is the Difference Between Parental leave and Maternity Leave?

parental leave

Firstly, if you’ve ever confused parental leave with maternity leave, you aren’t the only one. But both are different from each other.

Not only is it politically incorrect, but also in essence. Maternity leave indicates parenting is only the job of the mother, from conceiving delivering and raising the baby. On the other hand, parental leave makes it the job of both. But other than the ideological differences, there are two more:

  • Maternity leave is mostly provided when a woman conceives naturally. Parenthood, however, comes in many forms; adoption, natural birth, surrogacy, and more. Parental leave covers all the aspects
  • Parental leave is a form of shared leave. This is so because parenthood, in this case, is a shared responsibility of both the parents at the end of the day. Also, parental leave is more flexible in nature

Paternity leave is also a concept but is often much shorter than maternity leave, often amounting to mere tokenism.

Shared Parental Leave Calculator

How to calculate shared parental leave? The answer is in the form of a shared parental leave calculator. Most government websites do have this plugin in place. This calculator is useful in calculating employee leaves. This can give the employers a fair idea of what kind of policy to create, what to consider, and what not.

Do you Need to Provide Parental Leave to Your Employees?

The answer is yes. This leave policy covers both paid and unpaid parental leave and clarifies your stance on the parenthood of your employees, impending or existing. Further, if you provide paid leave to your employees, they will be more loyal and productive, and contribute more towards a better, inclusive, and happier work environment.

Do you have a parental leave already in existence? Does it have any unique features? Do share with us at @HarmonizeHQ