We’ve recently seen an influx of regulatory and workplace trends that benefit the working parent. From additional leave and continuation of health benefits to dependent daycare flexible spending accounts and company policies that allow for flexible work schedules, it’s important for employers to be aware of changing regulations and HR best practices. This will allow them to not only stay in compliance with regulations benefitting new parents but compete for top talent who may be looking for a family-friendly workplace.
Here are five effective ways employers can make sure they are creating a work environment where parents can thrive—in their jobs at home and in the office.
In addition to federal requirements, many states and municipalities are creating their own laws that are frequently more generous to the working parent. A few examples include:
• Reasonable break times to accommodate an employee’s need to express milk. In San Francisco, for example, an eligible employer must provide an employee breaks to express milk. Many local and state laws also regulate the lactation location.
• Protections for pregnant workers, such as the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act in Massachusetts, which requires an employer with six or more employees to provide reasonable accommodations for an employee’s pregnancy or any condition related to pregnancy, unless doing so would cause an “undue hardship.” These protections can include more frequent or longer breaks, time off to recover from childbirth, a temporary transfer to a less strenuous or hazardous job, modified work schedules, light duty and a private non-bathroom space to express breast milk. In some instances, an employer is not allowed to require documentation from the employee’s doctor if they request an accommodation.
• Paid leave programs are gaining momentum, such as the ones in New York state and San Francisco, where the employee receives partial wage replacement benefits (subject to a maximum cap) while they bond with their newborn or newly adopted child. Additionally, many other states and municipalities now offer some type of paid sick leave.
Staying on top of constantly changing regulations at the federal, state and local levels can be a challenge. That’s why we recommend companies work with an HR services provider to make sure they are aware of upcoming laws and new regulations in time to adjust their policies.
Offering flexibility and accommodations for working parents is a trend that has gained steam over the last few years. In order to attract and retain talent who are—or plan to become—parents, companies are considering offering programs that go beyond what is required of them.
In their 2018 Employee Benefits Survey, the Society For Human Resources Management (SHRM) found that 35% of companies offered paid maternity leave and 29% of companies offered paid paternity leave. The survey also found that 67% of companies offered a dependent daycare flexible spending account so parents can pay for qualified childcare with pre-tax dollars.
This is a good time for companies to evaluate their parental leave programs and employee benefit plans—including their non-traditional benefits—in order to ensure they are maximizing their opportunity to compete for top talent. It’s important to review parental leave programs to ensure that they are compliant with local, state and federal rules and regulations.
In addition to benefits for women who give birth, it’s also a good idea for employers to ask themselves what options they have available for spouses and domestic partners, as well as parents who use a surrogate, adopt or foster a child.
Many employees look to adjust their work schedule after becoming parents. More and more companies are offering flexible work schedules and allowing employees to telecommute. In the SHRM survey mentioned above, 59% of companies allowed for telecommuting on an as-needed basis, which is an increase from the previous year. Additionally, 35% of companies allowed for telecommuting on a part-time basis and 23% allowed for telecommuting on a full-time basis.
These statistics are promising, as the TriNet non-traditional benefits survey found that the most important non-traditional benefit, according to respondents, is a flexible work schedule. Flexible scheduling like this can help all employees achieve a work-life balance but is particularly desirable to working parents as it gives them the ability to be more involved in their children’s lives or be there for them when they are ill.
It is a good idea to review company policies covering remote work and flexible schedules to ensure that they meet the needs of the organization but also give freedom and flexibility when available. Keeping these policies updated ensures managers know what options are available when they are asked and that the benefit is applied consistently to all employees.
It’s a good idea for employers to listen to their employees’ needs and wants. This is true not just for working parents, but for all employees. Companies may decide to regularly survey employees to get a pulse on employee satisfaction. This can help in creating and adjusting policies to meet the needs of all workers—including expectant or current parents.
Additionally, it is best practice to communicate regularly with employees who plan to take parental leave or who are currently out on leave, including discussing options with these employees for when they return. Becoming a parent or adding a new child into the family is a huge change. Something as simple as asking an employee who is on leave what kind of support they need upon their return can go a long way toward creating a sense of loyalty and security.
Employers may want to consider ways their company can go above and beyond for creating a parent-friendly workplace that fits the company’s culture and needs. This could include a policy, for instance, that allows new parents to bring their baby to work. The Parenting Workplace Institute states that by allowing an employee to bring their baby to work for the first few months, employee retention is improved. They also provide sample policies and program overviews for companies considering this benefit.
Additional options you may want to consider are creating an onsite daycare or paying for all of or a portion of employees’ childcare expenses during working hours.
As always, it’s a good idea for businesses to talk to their HR services provider about family-friendly policies in the workplace and procedures that make sense for them.
This communication is for informational purposes only; it is not legal, tax or accounting advice; and is not an offer to sell, buy or procure insurance.
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