parent on parental leave

Paid Parental Leave: How Much Time is Right For Your Company?

Posted May 16, 2017 by Camilla Velasquez in Keeping Compliant
What should your company’s approach be to parental leave? Camilla Velasquez, VP of Product & Marketing at Justworks, gives her thoughts.

When a company is just starting up, it’s often made up of contractors, part-timers or whatever talented doers the founder can get on board to help bring his or her idea to life. You need to be scrappy to get from day one to day two. Your team is small, but employees believe in your company’s mission, and that helps to propel the company forward. At some stage in your growth — for the companies that are able to grow and thrive through the right mix of luck and grit — the discussion shifts.

Camilla Velasquez

When you actually get up and running, it changes from a discussion about life as a startup and the goal of getting off the ground to a discussion about life as a stable, growing company that’s making it and wants to keep making it for the long term. At that point, you need to start thinking about your talent for the long term as well. Attracting — and keeping — team members who will support that long-term view.

Our leadership team here at Justworks recently sat down to delve into that challenge, since we’ve certainly made it to the next level. We asked ourselves what ingredients we needed to compete for talent and retain our existing talent. We recognized that we needed to launch a full-fledged parental leave policy if we wanted to attract and keep strong and diverse talent.

In addition to those considerations, the New York Paid Family Leave Benefits Law (PFLBL) will go into effect January 1, 2018, so this will be a requirement that all companies in New York, regardless of size, should be prepared for.

Until now, we didn’t have a formal policy in place. We’ve always offered unlimited PTO, and of course, new parents took advantage of that policy. They just had to sit down with their managers to develop a leave plan that made sense for them and leadership needed to ensure there was some consistency with the amount of leave we offered across varying teams.

It was time to standardize the new parental leave policy and process and our managers wanted to have guidelines for how to approach those conversations. We realized we didn’t want our team members to have to have any questions regarding this topic, and we wanted to make sure new fathers were included as well. Parental leave, including paternity leave, is shown to improve outcomes for children and families. Paternity leave may also help to close the gender wage gap – according to the Swedish Institute of Labor Market Policy, every month of leave that a father takes could actually increase a mother’s future earnings by seven percent.

So we just formalized a policy guaranteeing 12 weeks of fully paid parental leave for all the new parents on our team, understanding that all families are different. We offer coverage for varied family configurations; including birth, adoption, or foster care placement of a child. The benefit is available to primary and secondary caregivers, regardless of gender.

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This was the right decision for us at this point in our lifecycle. For small companies just starting out, it may not be possible to offer a robust leave policy right away. In that case, there are other solutions companies can put in place such as short- and long-term disability insurance plans, which Justworks offers to our customers, as well as unlimited PTO.

Whether you are at the point where you feel you can offer a paid parental leave or not, it’s a good thing to start thinking about now. Because when you are competing for talent against bigger companies, and you are trying to attract and retain a diverse and talented workforce, you can bet that candidates and current employees will soon start to ask you the answer to the question, “What happens if I have a child?”