As a small-business owner, you can maintain a well-functioning business when employees take a multi-week maternity leave, have elderly care issues that require them to miss work or have child care issues that distract them. The Family Leave Act applies to businesses with more than 50 employees. Therefore, if you have more than 50 employees, compliance with these laws are mandatory. If you have less than 50 employees, you are not required to provide the full benefits. However, providing a portion of those benefits is advisable. For both situations, incorporating some or all of the options below will help you retain excellent employees and build loyalty.
1. Use a home health service to support employee productivity.
If you have any employees who use a high number of sick days to care for ill children or who use family leave to care for ailing adult family members, it may be cheaper for your company to contract with a home health care agency to have health care workers provide occasional service than it is to lose employee productivity. These agencies provide nurses or other care staff for services ranging from short check-up visits to day-long attendants. Many agencies offer flexible packages that allow you to contract for a range of hours or days per month, up to a specified maximum.
2. Offer to extend leave in exchange for part-time work
If you have key employees taking maternity or family leave and you are concerned that the employees will be completely unavailable for 6-9 weeks (or whatever your policy allots), offer to extend the leave time by 50-100% if they agree to be available 10-20 hours per week to work remotely during that time period – excluding the first 1-2 weeks (i..e, while in the hospital and while recuperating).
Regardless of how much your benefit plan provides for payments during maternity leave, the paid extension with part-time work is often greatly appreciated. This provides your business with continuity of work and projects and access by those who may be filling in and helps your employee to stay connected and eases the transition back into the office.
3. Offer flexible work options.
To increase the likelihood that someone will return immediately after using family leave or will take a shorter maternity or family leave, offer flexible work options. Allowing disciplined employees to telecommute from home 2-5 days per week is an excellent option that often results in higher productivity. “Disciplined” is the key word here because many employees do not work well from home for various reasons including being easily distracted, needing personal interaction to work effectively, etc.
Job sharing, in which 2 people work part-time (i.e., 20 hours each) to share the same job, is another option. Alternatively, your company can rely more heavily on video conferences instead of travel for applicable roles. Your business could also offer onsite or subsidize near-site child care. If you have employees with ailing adult members at home or nearby, your company could seek out adult day cares and negotiate reduced or subsidized rates for your employees.
Remember, there are always solutions to employee issues and concerns. Being creative, focusing on the work that needs to get done, and clearly defining job scope and expectations can go a long way towards helping you strengthen your business and have happy, well-rested, highly productive employees. You and your management team’s ability to empathize with employees will aid you in identifying their issues by increasing your ability to see their issues from their perspective. You can then switch back to the business perspective to determine creative solutions that cost relatively little or that have benefits that far outweigh the costs. This will promote morale and loyalty, which are both key to a healthy business.