Parental leave is time off for mothers and fathers to take care of a child for medical or non-medical reasons. Employees can use parental leave following the birth, adoption, or fostering of a child or to ensure a child’s welfare.

In the United States, the FMLA enables eligible parents to take twelve weeks of unpaid time off, while federal employees can receive up to 12 weeks of paid time off. 

In the U.K., the government allows 18 weeks per child of unpaid parental leave, up to the child’s 18th birthday. 

Why should HR leaders care about parental leave?

A supportive parental leave policy can help with attracting, engaging, and retaining quality workers. Parental leave can provide extra time for self and family care while promoting wellbeing as well.  

Millennials value workplace flexibility, work-life balance, and alignment with company culture, perhaps more than other previous generations. Knowing that their employer can assist with parental leave is reassuring to employees, parents, showing that their company respects their family needs and is willing to support them in taking crucial time off.    

What can HR leaders do to create an effective parental leave plan?

HR leaders can implement parental leave that is advantageous to the company and its staff through these practices:

  • Determine a strategy. Evaluate the organization’s needs and consider: Who are the most valuable employees? What do these employees value? Will parental leave significantly help them? What is the budget for parental leave? What is the cost-benefit of offering paid parental leave? Which aspects of parental leave can contribute to employee engagement and retention? 
  • Draft a policy. The policy should include essential information for employees, such as: What is the parental leave length? Is it paid or unpaid? If paid, what percentage of the salary does the employee receive? Does the policy provide extra time off in addition to government-mandated leave? Who is eligible? Does the policy reflect consistency and transparency? 
  • Know the laws. Each country has its own rules for parental leave. Understanding these laws and keeping abreast with recent updates ensures that personnel can take leave legally and without complications. 
  • Communicate. Maintaining balanced communication with employees on long-term leave can help them feel connected while away from work. Managers or HR professionals, for example, can check in twice a month to inquire how they are doing and send a monthly update to inform employees of changes in the workplace. 
  • Prepare colleagues. If employees decide to take planned parental leave, managers can organize in advance which colleagues will take over the emails and workload to ensure continuous productivity.

How can parental leave improve company culture?

Offering parental leave enables employees to care for their children while keeping their job– confident that their employer will be empathetic towards their needs. Demonstrating respect and regard for employees’ personal needs can contribute to greater engagement, retention, and loyalty and increased employee enthusiasm in the workplace.