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What Small Business Owners Should Know About Maternity Leave Policies

By: SmallBizClub

 

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Maternity leave for associates can be a tough issue for a small business. The idea of losing an employee for several weeks—or even months—can be daunting, and may even put the future of the business at risk. Considering this, here are a few things you should know about maternity leave policies.

 
1. Not All Small Businesses Have to Guarantee Maternity Leave
 
This doesn’t mean that all small businesses shouldn’t provide maternity leave, but that they don’t have to. According to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) businesses with fewer than 50 employees don’t have to guarantee their members time off after having a child.
 
 
However, it’s good to remember that having maternity leave helps you keep good employees and provides better employee satisfaction. But you need to do what works best for your business, and if maternity leave is too much for a business with less than 50 employees, then that’s a call you have to make.
 
2. Your Maternity Leave Policy Could Cripple or Grow Your Business
 
A bad maternity policy could leave you with a high turnover rate, while a good policy can almost guarantee that your employee will return to you. If your business is small enough to feel the effect of the loss of one employee, then you’ll want to make sure you don’t lose them for longer than necessary.
 
As a small business, you are in the unique position of being able to talk and work things out with your employees in a way that a big business is unable to do. You are also more likely to have sympathetic workers who understand that their leaving could hurt the company. Leave room for compromise when drafting your maternity leave policy—don’t forget that some pregnancies, especially high-risk ones, can be harder on the mother than others. Maternal fetal specialist Dr. Gilbert Webb says these can mean more time in recovery, which might require more time away from work. Be clear about your policy and be open about what you want. You’ll be surprised at how well your employees will respect that.
 
As soon as an employee tells you she is pregnant, start making plans on how you’re going to compensate for her absence. Talk to other employees about the opportunity to further advance in the company by taking more responsibilities (without jeopardizing the employment of the mother) in order to guarantee that her responsibilities will be taken care of while she’s gone. This provides the opportunity to cross train employees, creating cohesion within your business.
 
3. Giving Parental Leave Boosts Productivity
 
Companies that provide maternity (and paternity) leave have happier, more productive employees than those that don’t. Their employees feel valued and don’t have to choose between family and work. Maternity leave is rarely abused, so you don’t need to be concerned with team members taking advantage of your generosity. A valued employee puts more work into their company, which can only boost profitability.
 
4. Your State Laws May Be Stricter Than Federal Ones
 
Know the laws within your state. While federal law might say guaranteed maternity leave is only required if your company has over 50 employees, individual state laws may be different. Doing everything correct on a federal level might make you feel secure, but if you don’t check with what your state requires then you all of your planning may fall through. Research, communication, and planning will be your saving grace.
 
Maternity leave might seem scary for small businesses, but it doesn’t have to be. Learn the state and federal laws and adhere to them. Plan with your employees and decide what works best for your company. If you want to retain good employees, then make sure your company gives them a good reason to stay—even after starting and growing a family.
 
Author: Emma Sturgis is a freelance writer living in Boston, MA. She writes most often on small business and education.
Published: July 13, 2015
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