It’s an exciting time. One of your employees is preparing to welcome a baby, and you know time off will be needed. While your employees might be guaranteed job protection and unpaid leave as they bond with their little one, thanks to the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), paid parental leave isn’t guaranteed.  But paid parental leave is a hot employment topic and one that should be looked at closely if businesses want to stay competitive in today’s tight labor market.

In fact, according to the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development), the United States is the only developed country that doesn’t require paid maternity leave, and among the half of countries in the OECD that doesn’t offer paid paternity leave. But employees may still have parental paid leave options.

Even though there’s no federal requirement to provide paid maternity leave, there are a few states that require certain employers to provide paid family leave — and this might include paternity leave as well. This is where the HR professionals at Resourcing Edge can help, we keep up with state mandates and changes in leave laws to ensure our clients are compliant.

Research indicates that parents and children benefit when paid parental leave is implemented. Women are more likely to remain with the company after the birth of a child when maternity leave is offered. When parental leave is part of the equation, husbands and partners are more likely to be engaged in parenting activities.

Using parental leave and providing equal access, regardless of gender identity, when a new child is brought into the family makes more sense with the rise of same-sex partners. With parental leave in place, whether childbirth or adoption is a method of introduction, it’s possible for both parents — no matter their gender identity — to bond and participate in parenting activities.

According to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, an employer may not discriminate against an employee based on a protected class. These protections include: Pregnancy and childbirth, or related medical conditions; and women affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions must be treated the same as other persons not so affected but similar in their ability or inability to work.

It is important to note that for purposes of determining these Title VII requirements, employers should carefully distinguish between leave related to any physical limitations imposed by pregnancy or childbirth and leave for purposes of bonding with a child and/or providing care for a child (parental leave).

In summary, leave related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions can be limited to women affected by those conditions.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) provides the following examples of nondiscriminatory versus discriminatory leave policies as applied to men and women:

  • An employer offers pregnant employees up to 10 weeks of paid pregnancy-related medical leave for pregnancy and childbirth as part of its short-term disability insurance. The employer also offers new parents, whether male or female, six weeks of parental leave. A male employee alleges that this policy is discriminatory as it gives up to 16 weeks of leave to women and only six weeks of leave to men. In this example, the employer’s policy does not violate Title VII. Women and men both receive six weeks of parental leave, and women who give birth receive up to an additional 10 weeks of leave for recovery from pregnancy and childbirth under the short-term disability plan.
  • In addition to providing medical leave for women with pregnancy-related conditions and for new mothers to recover from childbirth, an employer provides six additional months of paid leave for new mothers to bond with and care for their new babies. The employer does not provide any paid parental leave for fathers. In this example, the employer’s policy violates Title VII because it does not provide paid parental leave on equal terms to women and men.

If your company doesn’t offer paid parental leave, your employees might need to come up with alternatives that allow them to take time off, while at the same time receiving some compensation for the time out of the office.  For example, saving and supplementing with their PTO while on an unpaid leave may be one strategy.

We recommend that you partner with the subject matter experts in the Resourcing Edge human resources department to find out what type of paid parental leave options or requirements there are available to your business.  This may be a high ROI to help increase your employee engagement and recruiting efforts.

Kimberly D. Gray is a Senior HR Services Partner at Resourcing Edge, who has 25 years of experience in employee relations, training, and compliance.

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