While some states have more demanding requirements, in a nutshell, the legal obligations are to treat maternity the same as any other illness and to abide by the FMLA and any state-required leave for reasons similar to the FMLA definitions.
Being family oriented probably also means that you care about the welfare of each employee's family regardless of whether the person is not able to work temporarily due to having a baby or because of another kind of illness. Plus, it is important to be fair.
Having a new member in the household is an additional financial burden and other kinds of illnesses can cause negative financial impacts as well. So, the best thing you can give would be a paid "maternity leave" which really should be your short-term disability policy. That is, if you already offer short-term disability, that is great. If the employees are paying a portion of the cost, you may want to have the company pay more of the cost or the entire cost of the short-term disability insurance premiums. You could also institute a self-insured short-term disability program, which essentially extends sick leave for documented serious, longer term conditions. You can use the FMLA definitions if you like and run the paid time off concurrently with the FMLA (or state-mandated similar programs) mandating unpaid time off work. If you do not offer company-paid or self-insured short-term disability, this would be an excellent time to start. Long-term disability is generally an inexpensive kind of insurance to provide to employees as well.
Allowing new moms--and dads--a more flexible work schedule for a defined period of time after birth or adoption might also be a great thing to offer. If the company wants to work with a specialties vendor and design a standard basket of wonderful baby necessities and luxuries with the company logo on each, that would be fun and well-received. You could have employees who are new moms and dads suggest what should go into such a basket. It would also make the employee feel valued. Most women need to buy some new clothes after the baby, so a gift certificate to a nice department store in the general vicinity with a card instructing her to use it on herself would be great too.
Do you offer paternity leave? Being truly family oriented includes helping new dads help out with some of the work load caused when a new baby arrives. Send the family that nice basket of baby stuff and send the dad's wife the gift certificate to a nice department store.
Hope this is helpful.
Question added to topic Human Resources • March 5, 2008
How can we enhance our maternity leave program beyond our legal obligations?
We are a very family-oriented company of 70 employees and would like to come up with a few special add-ons to enhance our maternity leave agreement. Are you familiar with any new trends or ideas in this area?
Penny is a seasoned human resources executive and consultant with over 25 years of diverse business experience in advising enterprise leaders on employment-related matters.