Traditional maternity and paternity leave policies can fall short of supporting today’s diverse workforce. If you want to attract and retain top talent, create an inclusive company culture, and boost employee engagement, you need to take a fresh approach to family leave.
Whether you’re a five-person startup or a 30-year-old enterprise, implementing a flexible family leave policy will position your company alongside some of the most admired employers in the world. Here are our top tips to help you get started.
1. Create a Single Policy Inclusive of All Workers & Family Types
Developing a universal family leave policy that's inclusive of all employees, regardless of their gender or family setup, will help you support, engage, and retain your team members more effectively.
Gender-neutral and adoption-inclusive family leave policies are particularly important for employees who may feel excluded from traditional leave types. For example, transgender and non-binary employees, same-sex couples, and people experiencing infertility.
While leave provisions have historically prioritized parents who give birth, gender-inclusive policies empower all parents to choose the right balance for their personal family dynamic.
You should also consider making your family leave policy inclusive of and sensitive to employees who experience the loss of a child. You may want to create a separate special leave policy for this and offer additional support and resources for those affected.
2. Be Mindful of Local Laws & Regulations
As an employer, you must comply with local labor laws, including those affecting job-protected time-off like maternity and paternity leave. Your policy should meet or exceed minimum requirements, such as length of leave and statutory pay, so be sure to research local regulations in detail.
For global teams, meeting requirements in several jurisdictions can be complex. Here are two ways you can approach it:
- Create a single policy that meets or exceeds the most generous requirements out of all the jurisdictions your business operates in. You may still need to accommodate additional specifics in certain jurisdictions, but this policy should cover most of your team members around the world.
- Create a family leave policy for each jurisdiction your business operates in, using local regulations as a foundation.
At Omnipresent, we’ve created a single family leave policy that covers most of the world, exceeding many local requirements. We want all our team members to enjoy benefits equitably - no matter where they’re based. But as with all global teams, there are additional local regulations that don't fit neatly into one policy. In those cases, our team members are always able to access local entitlements.
3. Be Generous, But Realistic
Not all countries mandate comprehensive paid family leave - in fact, some don’t offer it all! To best support your team and stay competitive in an employees’ market, you often need to go above and beyond statutory requirements.
That said, you need to be realistic and balance generosity with your allocated budget. If you’re a start-up, providing full pay for several months might not be possible - and that’s okay. But you should do a cost-benefit analysis. After all, not providing adequate paid family leave could hinder your talent acquisition and retention efforts, which might cost you more in the long run.
In addition to offering basic pay, a generous family leave policy might also involve:
- Making eligibility criteria more inclusive (e.g., reducing the length of service required to take leave).
- Offering fair compensation for those on variable incomes, such as salespeople whose income is primarily earned through commission or bonuses.
- Providing supplementary benefits throughout leave, such as childcare and meal vouchers or access to therapy.
- Covering the costs of adoption, surrogacy, or IVF, and offering special leave for treatment.
- Arranging paid “keep in touch” days during leave.
- Holding salary reviews immediately upon return to work.
4. Offer Career Development Support Before, During, & After Leave
Without considered policies in place, a working parent’s career progression can be negatively impacted - particularly for mothers. That’s why employers have to take a proactive approach to supporting parents and their career aspirations before, during, and after they take family leave.
First and foremost, you need to develop a company-wide career development framework, formally defining expectations for employees operating at different levels in your company. This helps reduce the impact of individual bias and base promotions on clear characteristics, behaviors, and skills rather than opinion.
Once you’ve created a career development framework, people managers and employees can have more productive conversations about their career aspirations and opportunities for progression. Combined with a healthy learning and development budget, parents or future parents can work on the skills needed for progression throughout their employment and leave.
During leave, providing regular check-ins helps you understand your employees’ needs better. This also allows you to continue career discussions while parents are off work. In addition to offering a phased return to work and a comprehensive re-onboarding program, you can help make their transition back to work smoother and more structured, so they can hit the ground running.
Mentorship programs, parenting communities, and employee resource groups are also useful initiatives that help parents connect, share experiences, and exchange advice at all stages of parenthood.
Requesting regular feedback from parents can also help employers further improve family-friendly policies to enhance career progression opportunities.
5. Nurture a Culture of Flexibility & Trust
Childcare responsibilities don’t stop from 9-5, so creating a flexible work culture that values trust and fits around your employees’ personal lives is crucial for their wellbeing, engagement, and productivity.
You need to demonstrate a commitment to flexible working from the top down so your newer or more junior team members feel comfortable embracing it. That means cementing flexible working into company policy, ensuring managers and leaders live your values, and hiring talent that thrives on autonomy and ownership too.
At Omnipresent, we emphasize output quality rather than time worked, so our colleagues can set their own hours. If something comes up, like a parents' meeting or doctor's appointment, they don’t need to worry about taking time out.
At the end of the day, flexibility is needed to be a truly inclusive company. Life happens, and we take it in our stride when it does.