Offering paid parental leave is more than an attractive policy for your workplace; it is a great way to jumpstart a long-term and mutually beneficial relationship between you and your employees. Here are some workplace policies that complement paid leave and support your employees on the great adventure of parenthood.
A transition plan
While new parents are blissfully immersed in life with their new baby, their work doesn’t evaporate. Talk with your employee, well in advance of the arrival of their baby, to assess honestly which parts of their job can be put on pause during their initial parental leave and which cannot. Then, develop a mutually agreeable game plan that allows work life to go on in the new parent’s short-term absence and allows for a smooth transition when the new parent is back in the office. It can be challenging to find quality coverage for a limited timeframe (i.e. the two or three months an employee is on leave), but everyone wins when an employee can take leave without compromising the productivity of the team.
A little time off before the baby arrives
Paid leave after a baby arrives is wonderful, but parents also need time off before the baby arrives. Moms-to-be are at the doctor’s office with increasing frequency the further along they get in their pregnancy. (This means non-pregnant partners will also have a growing number of appointments as the due date gets closer.) Most appointments fall during normal work hours, so make it easy for employees to slip in and out to ensure their baby is growing on track. In addition to accruing doctor’s appointments, the calendars of parents-to-be fill up with baby-related assignments, such as: labor and delivery education programs, potential pediatrician meet-and-greets, and car seat installation safety checks. Make sure your employees have the opportunity to engage in these meaningful preparations, and they’ll know that you understand that they are working hard to do their job and get ready for their next “big assignment” as a working parent.
Sadly, so much can go wrong with the delivery and arrival of a new baby, so it’s essential that you and your employees have a candid conversation about the ways in which you can help both the childbearing and supporting parent if things don’t go as planned. About one out of ten births are premature (before 37 weeks), and nearly 20% of women are put on bed rest during their pregnancy—some as early as the second trimester. Make sure you’re clear about which types of leave are paid or unpaid, how FMLA can mitigate schedule complications, and who in the office can offer support professionally if and when your employee has to leave unexpectedly. Addressing these less-than-ideal scenarios in a straightforward forward manner helps your employees see you as a vital piece of their birth plan and parenting experience.
About half of women are still breastfeeding at six months. Make sure your office environment supports these women by offering them a private, comfortable space (with access to an electricity outlet!) to pump. Luckily, most new moms are no longer relegated to a bathroom stall to pump; workplaces are setting aside individual offices for lactation that have an armchair, privacy blinds, and reservation system. Similarly, lactating employees should have the ability to block off time on their schedule to pump when they need to do so. These allowances can make the life of a new working-breastfeeding mother so much easier; they’ll let her focus on work more easily and maximize efficiency in and out of the office.
Technology access and education
Of course, technology has profoundly transformed the way we work today, and new parents often take advantage of this by working remotely at some point. However, if an employee has been in the office full-time—or has been able to be selective about the days on which they work remotely—before the birth of a child, make sure they also have the appropriate trainings on how to work remotely in a way that is effective and complements your workplace priorities. Ensure they have fluency in: using a video-chat interface, joining conference calls from home, and logging into an office server remotely. By investing in this type of education, everyone can work to their full potential.
Paid parental leave is a meaningful way to show new moms and dads you care about them, but there are many other ways in which a workplace can support working parents. Try implementing some of these practices and you’ll quickly become an integral component of your new parent-employees’ lives.
Looking for additional ways to support your moms and families? Download our ebook, How To Help Your Employees Return From Maternity Leave!
This post was written by Ovia Health’s contributing author, Emily Madden.