Small Business HR Advice

Parental Leave

Parental leave requirements can get business owners in trouble if they don't understand them. Parental leave perks can also be a valuable recruiting tool.

Having a child is one of the most important times in an individual's life.

Parental Leave

If one of your employees might soon experience the joy of becoming a new mother or father, it's important that you have a good understanding of parental leave.

With recent insurance and vacation stipulation reform, parental leave that allows for time off of work for new parents has become an increasingly important benefit in employment negotiations. Parental leave encompasses not only traditional maternity leave, but paternity and adoption leave as well.

Unlike many countries around the world, the United States is one of few nations that still does not provide government stipulations for paid time off in the event of a new child.

There are organizations nationwide, including Moms Rising, who are leading the push for paid parental leave regulations, but until that time comes there are limited options for American employees/parents.

The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 provides criteria for employee eligibility for parental leave in the United States. While many determinations regarding leave are left up to the human resources departments of different businesses, there are certain guidelines that must be followed as per government instruction.

Under FMLA law, many employers are required to offer their employees 12 weeks of unpaid leave after the birth or adoption of a child. At the end of such leave, the employer must allow the employee to return to the original or a similar position with the same salary, benefits, seniority, and working conditions.

As a small business owner, it is up to you how generous you want to be on the issue of benefits during parental leave.

While employees are required to be kept on the company health care plan and then asked to reimburse the company for premiums paid, some more generous companies will pay the employee's share of the insurance premium outright.

There are other stipulations pertaining to the timing of taking parental leave. As per federal guidelines, the employee is required to request leave at least 30 days before the leave is supposed to be taken. In addition, an employee must have worked for the current employer for 12 months and at least 1250 hours over the previous year. If they have not met this average of 25 hours/week for 50 weeks, they are ineligible for parental leave under FMLA guidelines

While in most cases, it is up to the employer to determine leniency pertaining to parental leave for employees, the employer must ensure that all minimum federal guidelines have been met. If they have been violated, it is possible for the employee to take legal action against the business.

As an employer and business owner, your state's Department of Labor can be an excellent resource in demystifying any details about parental leave requirements in your workplace.

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