The FMLA mandates that some employees are eligible to take time off to bond with a newborn or newly-adopted child, to deal with a medical illness, or to care for a close family member through their illness. Employees can take these leaves knowing that their job is secure while they are out. In many states, these leaves are unpaid, but it is best to check with your state. Some states will pay employees taking leave a percentage of their usual salary. The FMLA applies to companies with more than 50 employees based within a 75-mile radius, so small businesses are exempt. Even if your company is partnered with a PEO, the FMLA likely does not apply. Even if your company is not legally required to offer leave, you may still want to consider it.
Offering prolonged leave may seem difficult for small companies: it requires someone else to be trained to temporarily cover for an absent employee. In some cases, coworkers may be cross-trained and may have to perform two jobs at the same time (with decreased productivity in both positions.) In other cases, a temporary worker may be hired to cover the position, though there can also be decreased productivity while the temporary employee is trained. So yes, it can be expensive just to cover for an employee’s prolonged absence, yet many companies are choosing to not only foot those costs, but also to offer their employees paid leave.
Many companies, especially tech companies, have chosen to offer paid leave and flexible work schedules in order to attract and keep the best talent. Many employees are looking for benefits and parental leave as they decide that they want to start and raise a family. Companies that don’t offer leave or flexible options can actually repel top talent during the recruitment process, or they could lose great employees who need to take leave. Think about it: once you’ve invested time into recruiting, hiring, and training an employee, and that employee has helped your company to grow, are you willing to give up that investment rather than to grant a couple of months of leave?
Just because you’re not mandated to offer leave doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t. There are many options that you can offer to employees. If you can’t afford to offer paid leave while paying for a replacement, consider offering unpaid leave with job security. Consider letting another employee take on the responsibilities of the temporarily-vacant position so that they can prove themselves for future promotions and raises. If offering leave isn’t an option, maybe offering employees the option of working from home could be viable. There will be decreased productivity as employees may also be dealing with young children, loved ones, or their own illness, but your company can retain their expertise. Offering these options to employees can improve corporate culture and the company’s reputation as an employer.