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Is paid parental leave on the horizon?

Paid parental leave is getting a lot of buzz in 2018.

The local business community by and large opposes proposed leave legislation because it will further increase the cost of doing businesses in Hawaii. Here is some of the latest activity as of March 2018.

It will be some time before we know what the legislative efforts will yield. If it passes, the bill establishes a paid family leave implementation board to explore the issue further and it will be years before a program is implemented.

However, given the high level of public support for paid family leave initiatives, across political lines, many business owners are watching the issue carefully, as are we at simplicityHR.

In this article we explore trends in parental leave, paid leave as a recruiting and retention tactic, current laws on family leave, and how to prepare for a key employee’s upcoming leave.

Parental leave is a luxury in the United States

The United States is the only industrialized country in the world without paid maternity leave.

Currently, less than 13% of private sector employees have access to paid parental leave. Unpaid leave is available to 87% of employees through the Family and Medical Leave Act, and at workplaces with 100 or more employees, through the Hawaii Family Leave Law.

Even so, only 20% of all American workers take any leave at all following the birth of a child, once personal sick leave, vacation leave, and temporary disability insurance run out. High earning, college-educated women are most likely to take family leave. Among those who do not take maternity or paternity leave, the reasons most commonly cited are workload, cost, and lack of company policy. (Source)

At the same time, there are changes to local laws happening across the country. Five states, the District of Columbia, and a growing number of municipalities have paid family leave laws requiring employers to provide paid leave to full time employees.

In recent years, changing values and expectations in the workforce are leading many progressive companies to see parental leave as an important benefit to retain top talent.

Should I provide maternity leave if the law doesn’t require me to?

Well, first of all, you wouldn’t call it maternity leave, you’d call it parental leave. And it would have to apply equally to both mothers and fathers, or risk a discrimination lawsuit.

Small businesses in Hawaii with fewer than 50 employees are not required to provide parental leave under state and federal family leave laws—for now. In the meantime, some companies are offering parental leave benefits as a way to standout and attract top talent ahead a legislation requiring them to do so.

Employee benefits and perks play a huge part in a jobseeker’s consideration of a company and a position. Many workers would rather have better benefits in lieu of an actual pay increase.

Parental leave as a retention and recruitment tactic is definitely worth considering if your company is serious about Winning Hawaii’s Talent War. Though parental leave can result in additional costs to the company, a recent report found that not offering flexible work options for parents can actually hurt your company’s bottom line.

Parental leave benefits are proven to increase productivity, boost morale, improve loyalty, and help small businesses stay competitive, according to the National Partnership for Women and Families (PDF).

Is my company required to provide parental leave?

If you are a private-sector company that employs 50 or more employees, then you are required to provide parental leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The federal mandate requires employers to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-secured leave to qualified mothers and fathers following the birth or adoption of a child, as well as notifying them of these rights.

Leave can be taken any time within the first 12 months from the date of birth or adoption and must be taken in a continuous block unless intermittent leave is otherwise allowed by the employer.

Hawaii employers with over 100 employees should also be aware of the Hawaii Family Leave Law (HFLL) which allows qualified employees to take up to four weeks of unpaid, job-secured leave to care for the welfare of a new child.

Unlike the FMLA, the HFLL does not hold restrictions on the number of hours worked when determining an employee’s eligibility for leave. This means full-time, part-time, temporary, casual, on-call, and intermittent workers may be eligible to receive parental leave under the HFLL if they’ve worked for your company for at least six months. There are several other significant differences between state and federal family leave laws, so be sure to clarify these with your HR representative.

Both FMLA and HFLL apply to partners in legal, same-sex marriages as well as heterosexual spouses. Even fathers who are not married to or living with the mother of their child may qualify for parental leave, depending on how long they have been working for their employer and that employer’s leave policy. Leave for birth and bonding may be taken any time in the first 12 months of the baby’s life, but must be taken in a continuous block unless the employer agrees to allow intermittent leave.

How to prepare your business for parental leave

One of your star employees just informed you that she is expecting. While you’re happy for her, you also can’t help your mind from racing a mile a minute.

What are my obligations as an employer? Am I required to provide maternity leave? Can I maintain business-as-usual if I’m short-staffed for several weeks?

First and foremost, consult with an HR professional to be sure you understand your obligations and requirements as an employer. Second, prepare your plan of action.

  1. Track and transfer responsibilities. What are the employee’s daily tasks? What projects is he or she working on? Who do they report to? After you’ve got a clearer picture of what the employee’s workload looks like, you can begin to transfer responsibilities and delegate specific tasks.
  2. Cross train employees. Being down a single employee shouldn’t be the downfall of your business. Cross train employees as a matter of procedure. This helps your company recover quickly from disruptions and cover essential duties during an employee’s absence.
  3. Bring on temporary workers. To avoid burning out your existing team with increased workloads, consider using temporary workers.

Our sister company, ALTRES Staffing, has a pool of qualified individuals who can help your company maintain productivity when key employees are out on maternity or paternity leave.

Have a question for one of our HR experts? To learn more about this issue or to schedule a free consultation on the advantages of human resources outsourcing, contact simplicityHR.

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Readers should first consult their attorney, accountant or adviser before acting upon any information in this article.
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