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Maternity Leave: How to Best Handle the Employee’s Absence

Maternity leave, which is now often referred to as family or parental leave, is the period of time that an employee takes off after giving birth to or adopting a baby. This period of “time off” allows the employee to tend to the needs of the new baby (which, all parents know, goes far beyond finding the best convertible car seat and picking out a nursery theme). 

The time that an employee takes off for this leave varies, with many taking up to 12 weeks. While maternity leave is, of course, vital and understandable for the employee, it often leaves employers in a jam. During this period of time, the job that the person taking leave is responsible for falls on the shoulders of the employer, as well as the other employees. 
If you are an employer who has an employee who will be taking off for maternity leave, handle the absence as effectively as possible by planning and strategizing ahead of time. Here are some tips that will help you plan for maternity leave, allowing your company and the employee taking leave to be taken care of: 
Include the Employee: You might want to consider getting the employee who will be taking leave involved in the preparation process. For example, ask her how she thinks her role will be best filled during her absence. Perhaps include her in training another employee on her job. She could introduce her replacement to clients she works with. 
Be Open: An open line of communication is important between you and your employee. Make sure you know exactly when she plans on taking her leave and when she plans on coming back—and if she does, indeed, plan on coming back to work. Understanding what your employee’s plans are will allow you to fill her shoes while she is on leave—or begin looking for a replacement, should she be considering not returning to work. 
Make Your Best Offer: While the United States doesn’t have a national program that supports maternity leave, many companies do offer some sort of compensation to their employees during this leave. Often, companies buy disability insurance, which they then offer employees during their leave of absence, and this pays 60% of their salary. 
However, if you can make a better offer, consider doing so. For example, if you can offer a larger percentage of wages during leave, or you can offer more time off, do it. Your employee will not only value the bigger perks, but such perks will be a greater incentive for her to return to work. 
Be Understanding: While having an employee take off for an extended period of time may put your business in a difficult position, be understanding of the reason she is taking off. Have heart and appreciate that your employee is taking off to care for her new family. Understand that she is not taking off for a vacation, but that she will be tending to an even greater job than the one she fulfills at work. 
Maternity, parental, or family leave—no matter what you call it, it is extremely important for a new family. As an employer, handling this leave of absence as effectively as possible will not only ensure the smooth operation of your company during the leave, but it will also ensure the satisfaction of the employee. 
Published: October 24, 2013

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