Goodness gracious. The media flurry around the hiring of Marissa Mayer by Yahoo, the fact that she’s a she, and that she is also pregnant surely belies the lingering issue that remains inside C-Suite America – where are the women? Fair enough. Now there is a big brouhaha from many sides because Mayer told Fortune that she would work through her short maternity leave, which will only last a few weeks. Bottom line. It’s her choice.
What does not go unnoticed is the large number of expectant parents who DO NOT have a choice. This is the vast population of workers who are not covered by FMLA; those who work at small businesses with fewer than 50 employees. Choosing unemployment is a laughable option, as few of these working parents have the necessary economic reserves. And, herein lies the conundrum.
Not surprisingly, there are health benefits for employees and their families associated with paid leave programs.
In “Policy Matters: Public Policy, Paid Leave for New Parents, and Economic Security for U.S. Workers,” Linda Houser and Thomas P. Vartanian found that paid family leave reduces the likelihood of premature birth, improves breastfeeding establishment and duration and increases the chances of obtaining well baby care, in addition to improving the health of both mothers and children and decreasing health care costs in the longer term. “Access to paid leave has also been linked to families’ economic security and independence,” the authors observed.
Valerie Young, a contributor to Woman in Washington, writes that “access to paid leave following the birth or adoption of a child reduces the likelihood that a family will be forced to resort to public support or food stamps.” High-ranking officials like Mayer have the edge on middle and lower-income families, Young adds, because their employers often offer paid parental leave. That’s why establishing a national paid leave policy is so important.
Note: Mayer is lucky; she lives in California, one of two states (New Jersey being the other) in the United States that has a paid family leave program where employees may take up to six weeks of paid leave through a program financed entirely through small payroll tax contributions.
I find myself usually marching in the same direction as Rex W. Huppke, a columnist for the Chicago Tribune, who tackles workplace issues of the day. Mr. Huppke’s latest submission printed in Section 2 this past Monday, May 7th, 2012, titled, “No Question New Parents Should Get Paid Leave”, is not an exception. With a bit of his typical cynicism, Huppke contrasts our commonly held value of family being a keystone of a stable and successful civilization with the fact that America is virtually alone in its aversion to paid work leave for new mothers.
It is striking that some organizations out there have funded research at Rutgers University to collect even more overwhelming evidence of the benefits of giving new parents paid time off. Their recent research concluded that paid parental leave makes for healthier babies, more workers returning to the job after maternity leave, and stronger families. I guess that the research sponsors felt a need to hit some people over the head with these moot observations. What caught me off guard is the relative lack of company backing of paid family leave programs.
Mr. Huppke references Bureau of Labor statistics showing that only 11% of private-sector workers and only 17% of public-sector workers have access to paid family leave through their employer. What does this say about American business leaders? Simple, we are hypocrites. Huppke points out, “we all seem to agree on the importance of families, yet America – unlike more than 170 other countries – doesn’t guarantee paid work leave for new mothers.”
It’s a better business decision to give new parents access to paid leave. Fact. Businesses increase the probability of retaining good employees, building loyalty and avoiding the costs of replacement and training. It also helps those who are most affected by the lack of paid leave; low income parents who have no choice but to continue working in those brief, but vitally important initial weeks of a newborns development to support themselves.
If we business (HRInsights included) owners and leaders value “family” as much as we say we do, then maybe we should have a paid leave policy that reflects it.
The Department of Labor has recently released the FMLA Advisor to help businesses determine if they are covered by the FMLA and if employees are eligible for coverage. At HRInsights, we realize that you may not have the time to go through the entire advisor, but it is important to know if you are covered and if your employees are eligible. So here’s a quick review of the FMLA:
The Family & Medical Leave Act:
- Covers only certain employers;
- Affects only those employees eligible for the protections of the law;
- Involves entitlement to leave;
- Maintains health benefits during leave;
- Restores an employee’s job after leave;
- Sets requirements for notice and certification of the need for leave;
- Protects employees who request or take leave; and
- Includes certain employer record keeping requirements
Eligible employees of covered employers are entitled to FMLA leave for:
- The birth of a child and to care for the newborn child;
- The placement of a child for adoption or foster care and to care for the newly placed child within one year of placement;
- Care for a family member with a serious health condition;
- The employee’s own serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the functions of his or her job; or
- Certain military-related reasons.
So if you’d like to take a quick look at coverages and eligibility, here’s a simple way to do it:
Employers click here. Employees click here. Go through the questions to find out. If you’re unsure contact HRInsights’ HR Advisors to get further advice (go to www.hrinsights.com and click ‘I Need HR Advice’).
It’s that time of year again… It’s the time for sniffles, coughs, sore throats and headaches. The cold and flu season is frustrating for employees and employers alike, but what happens in the event of a flu epidemic? Are you prepared?
Here are some steps for creating a response plan:
- Divide the company into divisions/departments
- Have each department determine worst-case scenarios
- Proceed with each department in establishing what is essential in keeping each department moving
- Who is essential? Who does their work if they’re out sick? What needs to get done and what can slide?
- Integrate each departments’ plan into one company-wide plan listing contact information for key members
- Also, an appropriate activation/deactivation factor will need to be determined
- This could range from public health officials administering an alert to employee absenteeism from flu exceeding a certain percentage
- Develop materials signifying symptoms of the flu and be ready to distribute these materials when the response plan is activated
- Develop an information platform (internet/hotline) for employees, customers, vendors, and suppliers to communicate the epidemic status in a timely fashion
- Also, keep supplies in place to prevent or slow down an outbreak
- Hand Sanitizer
- Workplace disinfectant wipes
- Face Masks
- Receptacles for used supplies
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, if an employee who is covered and eligible under the FMLA is needed to care for a spouse, daughter, son, or parent who has a serious health condition, the employee is entitled up to 12 weeks of job-protected, unpaid leave during any 12-month period. Keep in mind, covered employers must comply with the federal or sate provision that provides the greater benefit to their employees.
So, as opposed to laying off employees in this situation, we would encourage you to consider other options, such as telecommuting, and to prepare a plan of action specific to your workplace.