Parental Leave Doesn’t Have to be Scary for Employers

When an employee announces to HR that he or she will be taking FMLA leave in the near future to care for the birth or adoption of a new member of the family the first thing that goes through the minds of management is fear. Managers realize that a key employee will be missing for several weeks while the employer is left to keep his or her job open the entire time. Clearly this is a daunting proposition for companies large and small, but with proper training the entire experience can be handled without stress and with clear compliance. If done correctly, paternity or maternity leave can be an experience that rewards the employer with a motivated and thankful employee when he or she returns.

The first element of FMLA training is a background on the law. Although this article will not bore you with the complicated nuances of the statute, the basic proposition is that new parents are entitled to take up to 12 workweeks in a twelve month period to care for the birth or adoption of a newborn or newly adopted child. This is roughly three months out of the year that will need to be accounted for while the employee’s job is held open. By having a background on the fundamentals of the law, properly trained managers are able to satisfy the most important element of a successful parental leave experience: planning.

When you run a company with more than 50 employees you are bound to face a situation at some point where an employee needs to take FMLA leave. Therefore, it is wise to have a plan in place to fill the duties of each position covered by leave during the time they are gone. Although it may require the summoning of a temporary employee or a reshuffling of job responsibilities, if the plan is in place it will be executed seamlessly, and the employee will be able to take his or her leave comfortably and without worry that they are leaving the employer in a bind.

A second critical element of FMLA training is teaching management how to effectively communicate with the employee going on leave in a clear, concise, and non-discriminatory fashion. Certain things that seem natural to say can actually expose the employer to liability. Therefore, it is critical that managers know what must be communicated to the employee before and during his or her leave and what contact is prohibited. Further, effective communication increases morale and makes the pregnancy leave that much more positive an experience.

Finally, uniformity in application of policies is a key facet of FMLA training. When one employee goes out on leave and is harassed or subjected to some kind of misconduct while compliance with the law is maintained in another situation there can be significant exposure for the company. Clearly it is important to establish a policy for how things are to be handled when an employee is on leave, and the policy and its application must be carried out with uniformity.

Each of these tips will help you maintain practical compliance with the FMLA, but we highly recommend contacting Syntrio, Inc. for focused training on the FMLA and avoiding claims of pregnancy discrimination. Contact Syntrio for more information and remember to follow us on Twitter, Google Plus and LinkedIn for daily updates on employment law and compliance that impact your business!


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