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BY Romy Newman

When Should You Create Your Maternity Leave Policy?

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TAGS: Maternity leave, Compensation

Katherine Prime was one year into her tenure as SVP Operations at Spring Inc., a digital shopping startup, when she was approached by a key employee from her team who told her she was pregnant.

“What is our maternity leave policy?” the employee wanted to know. Katherine’s challenge? The company didn’t have one. The topic had never come up before because during Spring’s short life span, no employee had ever become pregnant before.

Katherine realized that she needed to tackle this issue immediately -- not just to get this one employee an answer to her very reasonable question, but also to establish the maternity leave as an important part of Spring’s talent retention and acquisition strategy.

Katherine undertook a great deal of research, and determined that in the world of parental leave policies, “standard is really poor -- meaning most companies adhere to some basic standard of 6 weeks paid, and that really doesn’t feel like enough for a mother to recover and bond with her newborn.” Katherine asked friends, associates and even lawyers to weigh in on what kind of policy Spring should implement.

With strong support from her boss, the company’s co-founder, Katherine proposed and successfully implemented a paid maternity leave policy of four months. She views this accomplishment as one of her most significant in her time at Spring.

“Our generous leave policy builds a deeper loyalty. It also sends a strong message that having a child [while working at Spring] is not going to set you back.” Katherine wanted to send a strong signal that Spring was truly an employer that respects families. And, to build on the successful implementation of the maternity leave policy (which applies to all primary caregivers), Katherine is working on a paternity policy to implement soon.

Katherine's journey is not unusual, since for many companies wait until an employee is pregnant to create a leave policy. So what does this mean for your business?


1.Figure out your parental leave policy
before someone gets pregnant.

As Katherine tells us, it’s critical “to think about your leave policy before there’s a specific individual in question.” Otherwise, when you’re trying to garner support for your proposed policy, it’s possible that some bias may creep in - albeit unintentionally.

So the takeaway here is that it’s never too soon to start thinking about your leave policy. And if you wait until one of your employees is pregnant, you’ve waited too long.


2. Do your research, and ground your recommendation in data.

One of the reasons we founded Fairygodboss is because we found an extraordinary lack of publicly available data about companies’ maternity leave policies. Historically, it has been a huge black box. Fortunately, thanks to thousands of tips we’ve received from women all over the US, we now have a complete database of maternity leave policies at over 1500 US companies. Who has the most generous? Learn more here.


3. Making your policy more generous really does have an impact.

Data that we’ve collected at Fairygodboss shows a direct correlation between the amount of maternity leave taken by women at work their overall job satisfaction. And, it’s a step function. Women who take more than 13 weeks are more satisfied overall than those who took 12.

So it’s not just about instinct or doing the right thing. If your aim is to help retain and promote your best female talent, they will be much more loyal, satisfied and productive if they have the opportunity to take more leave.


4. Focus on the benefits.

An industry-leading leave policy is “a great recruiting mechanism,” Katherine told us. When you’re thinking about implementing a policy for your business, think about what outcomes you’re trying to achieve. If you choose to implement a top-notch parental leave policy, you’ll show current and future employees that you are truly a family-friendly employer, where they can build a career long term.


5. Make sure there is support from senior management - both for the policy and the practice.

Mark Zuckerberg made news last year when he took 2 months paternity leave from his role as CEO of Facebook. Great parental leave policies work only when senior management works by example. Managers should take leave, and should show strong support of others who do as well.

Many times, people worry about lost productivity while employees are out on leave, but I can tell you from personal experience that it is much easier to miss the contributions of a talented employee for several months than it is to lose her or him altogether. In my view, churn is one of the most underestimated costs a company faces.

On the flipside, if you can distinguish your company as one that is genuinely respectful of the family lives of its employees, the loyalty you build will take you far.


Fairygodboss

Fairygodboss is committed to improving the workplace and lives of women. 
Join us by reviewing your employer!

Related Community Discussions

  • I am currently 36 weeks pregnant and gearing up to go on maternity leave at the end of the month. I recently came across a new job oppurnity that would be better for my family. I'm at the finishing stages of interviewing with this new company and I am worried that I will find out I got the job while on maternity leave. My question is, what happens to my maternity benefits and how do I go about leaving my current job without issue?

  • Any advice for someone searching for work during their first trimester of pregnancy? I currently work with a temp agency for income and am applying for my next role. From what I've read on the boards, it seems that most women are firmly established at their companies but I was forced to look for a new role outside of my former company due to a health condition. They were unwilling to move me to a different role within the company. Any suggestions on how to navigate the next 4-6 months before giving birth?

  • I'm 12 weeks pregnant and just met with HR to find out about our Maternity Leave program only to learn that they only give us unpaid leave (you have to file for state disability to get your 55% salary during those weeks) In talking with other moms, I found they all came back early (because who can really afford to take a big pay cut when you have a new little one to tend to?)

    It never occurred to me to check because kids weren't on the radar when I applied for the job, but I'm totally disheartened that my company that "prides itself" on caring about its people doesn't have something better in place. Has anyone gone to HR to see about improving their policies? I know as a whole our organization had a 12 year tenure when I started and a pretty high average age, so it may have not been on their radar, but I'm shocked that they aren't more progressive. Any advice??

  • Good morning!
    I am seriously stressing about tell my work I am pregnant. Right now I am 9 weeks and 3 days. I work in a very competitive industry (recruiting) just got promoted to Assistant Manager this year and the bosses are mostly men. Its a small business so you would think its family friendly but its not so much. I take on a huge work load and I know it will be upsetting to them (As happy as I am) I know there is nothing they can do legally but I am still scared. I am 38 years old, this is my first, have been at this small company for 8 years. Hard worker for sure so this will be unexpected. I know they do not have maternity leave here so we follow what the state offers. We get short term disability in New Jersey ( 4 weeks before, 6 after) and then I think we can take 6 weeks of FMLA. Now I know once I tell them they do ask what my plan is. I honestly have no idea what my plan is!! Do I need the 4 weeks before? After how long!

    Also, I am going on a preplanned vacation April 1-10, do I tell them when I get back or before I leave?

    Thank you in advance for ANY help, advice, I am quite stressed out!

  • What is the proper etiquette on your first day back from maternity leave? Do you bring a small gift (e.g. box of joe or box of cookies?) I had 2 people covered for me while I'm on a 5 months leave. I would like to show them my gratitude for their additional work. What do you suggest I bring and do I bring it for the whole office of just the 2 people? Or would you bring anything at all?

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When Should You Create Your Maternity Leave Policy?

When Should You Create Your Maternity Leave Policy?

Katherine Prime was one year into her tenure as SVP Operations at Spring Inc., a digital shopping startup, when she was approached by a key employee from ...

Katherine Prime was one year into her tenure as SVP Operations at Spring Inc., a digital shopping startup, when she was approached by a key employee from her team who told her she was pregnant.

“What is our maternity leave policy?” the employee wanted to know. Katherine’s challenge? The company didn’t have one. The topic had never come up before because during Spring’s short life span, no employee had ever become pregnant before.

Katherine realized that she needed to tackle this issue immediately -- not just to get this one employee an answer to her very reasonable question, but also to establish the maternity leave as an important part of Spring’s talent retention and acquisition strategy.

Katherine undertook a great deal of research, and determined that in the world of parental leave policies, “standard is really poor -- meaning most companies adhere to some basic standard of 6 weeks paid, and that really doesn’t feel like enough for a mother to recover and bond with her newborn.” Katherine asked friends, associates and even lawyers to weigh in on what kind of policy Spring should implement.

With strong support from her boss, the company’s co-founder, Katherine proposed and successfully implemented a paid maternity leave policy of four months. She views this accomplishment as one of her most significant in her time at Spring.

“Our generous leave policy builds a deeper loyalty. It also sends a strong message that having a child [while working at Spring] is not going to set you back.” Katherine wanted to send a strong signal that Spring was truly an employer that respects families. And, to build on the successful implementation of the maternity leave policy (which applies to all primary caregivers), Katherine is working on a paternity policy to implement soon.

Katherine's journey is not unusual, since for many companies wait until an employee is pregnant to create a leave policy. So what does this mean for your business?


1.Figure out your parental leave policy
before someone gets pregnant.

As Katherine tells us, it’s critical “to think about your leave policy before there’s a specific individual in question.” Otherwise, when you’re trying to garner support for your proposed policy, it’s possible that some bias may creep in - albeit unintentionally.

So the takeaway here is that it’s never too soon to start thinking about your leave policy. And if you wait until one of your employees is pregnant, you’ve waited too long.


2. Do your research, and ground your recommendation in data.

One of the reasons we founded Fairygodboss is because we found an extraordinary lack of publicly available data about companies’ maternity leave policies. Historically, it has been a huge black box. Fortunately, thanks to thousands of tips we’ve received from women all over the US, we now have a complete database of maternity leave policies at over 1500 US companies. Who has the most generous? Learn more here.


3. Making your policy more generous really does have an impact.

Data that we’ve collected at Fairygodboss shows a direct correlation between the amount of maternity leave taken by women at work their overall job satisfaction. And, it’s a step function. Women who take more than 13 weeks are more satisfied overall than those who took 12.

So it’s not just about instinct or doing the right thing. If your aim is to help retain and promote your best female talent, they will be much more loyal, satisfied and productive if they have the opportunity to take more leave.


4. Focus on the benefits.

An industry-leading leave policy is “a great recruiting mechanism,” Katherine told us. When you’re thinking about implementing a policy for your business, think about what outcomes you’re trying to achieve. If you choose to implement a top-notch parental leave policy, you’ll show current and future employees that you are truly a family-friendly employer, where they can build a career long term.


5. Make sure there is support from senior management - both for the policy and the practice.

Mark Zuckerberg made news last year when he took 2 months paternity leave from his role as CEO of Facebook. Great parental leave policies work only when senior management works by example. Managers should take leave, and should show strong support of others who do as well.

Many times, people worry about lost productivity while employees are out on leave, but I can tell you from personal experience that it is much easier to miss the contributions of a talented employee for several months than it is to lose her or him altogether. In my view, churn is one of the most underestimated costs a company faces.

On the flipside, if you can distinguish your company as one that is genuinely respectful of the family lives of its employees, the loyalty you build will take you far.


Fairygodboss

Fairygodboss is committed to improving the workplace and lives of women. 
Join us by reviewing your employer!

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