Netflix snagged headlines nationwide in August 2015 with the rollout of a groundbreaking new policy: unlimited paid maternity and paternity leave for its employees. Fast forward to last Thanksgiving, when Facebook extended its four-month paid parental leave plan to all employees worldwide.
Even more recently, Etsy jumped on the bandwagon, announcing that both female and male employees would be eligible for 26 weeks of fully paid leave when they became parents through birth or adoption.
All three companies continue to receive praise for offering these benefits -- which they absolutely deserve. But, progressive paid leave policies should be more than just a glamorous Silicon Valley perk to lure employees, in highly competitive environments.
Entrepreneurs and small businesses are driving innovation on so many different levels. Shouldn’t we be at the forefront of this issue, too?
Think about it this way: The process of changing an HR policy at a large, corporate company can take months, considering all of the necessary processes, approvals and red tape. Small businesses, however, have much more flexibility and can change their policies quickly, and with fewer hoops to jump through.
With that in mind, one thing becomes clear: Small business owners have the opportunity -- and the obligation -- to change workplace policies for the better. Rather than simply wait for the government to pass a mandate, we should be establishing the expectations ourselves, setting the standards and encouraging other companies to keep up.
Equal pay, equal benefits
All that said, limiting paid leave policies to new moms -- or excluding new dads from receiving the same level of benefits that their female colleagues do -- reinforces the antiquated gender norm that says mothers are the primary caregivers.
If we believe in equal pay for men and women, we should also believe in equal benefits, right? Just as women deserve to earn as much as men, new dads deserve equal time to bond with their children and to adjust to the new realities of parenthood.
The financial factor
Admittedly, not all companies can afford to offer such extended paid leave policies for their employees. But, that doesn’t mean it’s okay to skip out on the idea entirely.
Consider at least a few weeks of fully paid leave, and then a “transition” period, where the employee is able to return to work, but from his or her own home. That way, you won’t lose too many weeks of productivity, and your employee still has plenty of time to bond with the newborn child.
Also, consider this: Yes, you’ll need to invest some money to provide the paid leave period. But, that’s less expensive than the alternative -- what you’ll lose if someone decides not to come back to work after having a child.
Offering flexibility is good for businesses and families.
A cut-and-paste policy
No time to think through your policy? No problem. I’ll let you borrow ours. Feel free to copy, paste and edit the policy we recently introduced at my agency, Geben Communication, to work for you.
“[Company name] wants to support our team members if they choose to expand their families. If you’re a new parent -- whether you gave birth or adopted -- we want you to take time and enjoy the experience. We know team member needs vary, so we provide up to 10 weeks of paid leave for moms and dads alike. We also know that returning to work can be abrupt, so we offer the opportunity to transition back over a two-week period with a combination of remote and on site work. The return transition period should be worked out with your supervisor and approved before the beginning of your leave.”
For our small businesses to be able to drive the economy, we have to be able to recruit and retain the best talent. A robust benefits packages -- including a more progressive paid leave option -- can be a differentiator that helps emerging businesses attract high-quality talent.
So, what are you waiting for?