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Paid family leave policies are complex. Cost, capacity and resources, and the varied needs of your employees’ families are all factors in building effective and equitable policies. This is uncharted territory for many startups — particularly if you’re an early stage startup.
We've built a guide that takes some of the guesswork out of parental leave policy. We consulted with a number of startup founders and CEOs, VC partners, policymakers, and HR experts to share the best practices, gaps, and growth opportunities they uncovered during the development of their own paid family leave policies.
Workers missed out on approximately $28 billion more in wages from March 2020 to February 2022 compared with the previous two years due to a lack of access to paid leave, and almost two million women were pushed out of the workforce during the covid pandemic due to lack of access to sufficient leave.
The sentiment that parental leave is a woman’s issue or reserved for birthing mothers is outdated and misleading. “The reality of parenthood is that everyone gets there on a different path, and no matter what that journey looks like, all parents deserve an equitable leave.”
A strong but realistic policy for a company your size will likely land somewhere in the range of twelve to sixteen weeks. However, to determine exactly what is enough for your policy, you need to consider the following areas: Company Culture, Legal Obligations, Financial Realities.
In addition, the map below indicates the states that have paid family leave programs on the books that you and/or your employees may already be paying into:
Easy to Use
The marketing of your parental leave policy to your employees should start with clear, transparent, and frequently published communications. No one should need to go on an elaborate mission to find out what benefits might be available to them and their growing family.
Toyin Ajayi, Cityblock Health CEO and Co-Founder noted, “The status quo doesn't work particularly well for working women.” Iyah Romm, her Co-Founder, continued: “We’ve had folks join us at nine months pregnant and then go out on leave. That’s not an issue for us. I don’t know that it’s codified for us, but it's a very intentional cultural thing.”
SUPPORTING PARENTS BEFORE,
DURING AND AFTER LEAVE:
Consider what happens before someone goes out on leave, what’s in place during leave, and after how they transition back into the organization to make them feel supported and celebrated. In most situations it’s in everyone's best interest to plan for a longer leave and then see how it goes.
Options like Jessica Chang’s WeeCare can help connect people with in-home daycare. They are complimented by a whole host of new companies like Vivvi and Kinside which work to make childcare work well for working families via employers as a benefit. Just as you should ensure that parental leave is available to all employees, child care benefits you choose to provide should be available to all employees, including newer, part-time, hourly and non-exempt workers, and potentially contractors too.
Ease Back In
“Coming back to work after parental leave should be thought of as a second onboarding,” suggests HR expert Ashley Lekwauwa. “It’s to everyone's benefit to ensure all managers are trained and well resourced to support working parents.”
“I knew I was a bad example in the sense that I wanted dads to feel comfortable taking time off, but I also knew
I couldn't really disconnect. Instead of taking time off, I integrated my kids as much as possible into Betterment, to normalize family, and to make family a part of Betterment life. My older daughter Sasha came on a week-long hackathon retreat to Cape Cod when she was just 3 months old.”
THERE’S NO RIGHT WAY FOR PARENTAL LEAVE TO LOOK FOR A CEO OR FOUNDER
Emma Sánchez Andrade Smith, Co-Founder and CEO at Jefa created a parental leave journal (able to be viewed by anyone on her team) while she was out where she captured big strategy ideas she had while she was away.
“I loved the chance to step back from the daily operations to pause and look at the big vision, while out on walks with my newborn. A lot of our more novel and innovative offerings we are rolling out in the product now come from that journal and the time I took away.”
Ellen DaSilva, Founder and CEO of Summer Health noted, “Even if they aren’t taking as long of a leave as other employees, founders can set a good example about being honest and transparent about their own boundaries when they are offline."
Provide a clear
“Use the resource you are already paying for. Your payroll system, like ADP or TriNet , employs a HR generalist who can help you get up to speed on both the national and state specific requirements and benefits with regards to paid leave.”
INCLUDE MISCARRIAGE LEAVE
Bobbie’s miscarriage leave policy offers three weeks of paid leave to support employees who have experienced miscarriage, with additional time off near their due date.
A number of companies like:
now include pregnancy loss as part of their paid leave policies, and a number of companies extended their bereavement leave policies to include pregnancy loss.