Planning and Returning from Parental Leave

For Employees | For Employers

Context: This document serves as a guide for expecting parents and their managers to plan parental leave; it’s worth it to do a little planning in advance in order to ensure that things go smoothly at both home and work while the leave takes place!

Planning for taking and returning from parental leave

Taking parental leave is a time of anticipation, sometimes uncertainty, and most of all, change. By taking the time to write up a plan for a parent to communicate, delegate, or put on hold their responsibilities while on leave, that parent and their surrounding colleagues can relax and feel a bit less uncertain.

Returning from parental leave can feel like just as big a change as taking it. By taking the time to plan a leave and returning from it, expectations are set in advance everyone involved. 

Team involved in planning parental leave

Here’s the list of people than can be involved in planning and returning from parental leave:

  • The parent going on leave
  • Manager/close team of the parent going on leave
  • Colleagues who will be taking on responsibilities while parent is on leave

Drafting up the plan for taking and returning from parental leave should fall mostly on the parent taking the leave and their manager, but depending on the role of the parent and the number of responsibilities to hand over, there may be a larger group of people involved.

Think about the opportunities the parent is making by taking leave: there may be members of the team who are looking to grow by taking on a stretch goal or try a new challenge; if the parent taking leave is in a senior role, what responsibilities can they offer or delegate to a more junior member of the team?

Also, try not to overwhelm a single individual with a large amount of work, putting them at risk of burnout. Using the guide below, first list the responsibilities that need to be covered while the parent is taking leave, who will take them on, and be available for support. Then, this list can again be used to form the timeline for resuming the responsibilities or taking on new ones.

Planning handover for the parent taking leave

First, list out all of the projects, meetings, clients, customers, mentees, and/or other responsibilities currently owned by the parent taking leave. For each of them, the parent or their manager should work with their team to determine which individuals or team managers will be handling each responsibility. If there needs to be a handover, briefly describe it, along with links to any relevant resources, documents, or meeting agendas.

Because a parent may need to start taking their leave earlier than the originally planned date, it’s recommended that any handover of information take place 4 weeks before the leave begins. This also allows for additional questions to be answered before the parent goes on leave.

Logistics of taking leave

Notifying manager & HR when you go on leave

Especially in case the parent needs to take leave early, have a predetermined way to notify the team & company that the parent is starting their leave.

Work-related application & notifications

If the parent taking leave has work-related applications that create notifications, it’s recommended that the parent sign out of the applications or at least silence their notifications while on leave. If needed, the parent can discuss emergency contact criteria & procedures with their manager in case they do want to be somewhat available, but they shouldn’t expect to be as available as before while working full time.

If appropriate, set a time-based status in a chat or messenger application, such as “Out on Leave, returning on Month, Day, Year. Reach out to *manager name* in case of something urgent.”

Email

Based upon how many emails the parent receives, there can be a few strategies to managing email both while away and upon returning.

  1. Out of office message: Many cloud email providers and services allow for someone to set up an “out of office” reply that starts and ends on a specific date.
  2. Email Bankruptcy: In some cases, it’s unrealistic for a returning parent to make it through all of their email upon return. In this case, set the expectation that email will not be read upon the parent’s return, either in the out-of-office message or through other means.
  3. Email filters: Before starting leave, set up email filters to place non-urgent, automated, or other emails that can be ignored into one or more folders, so that the parent’s inbox is less full upon arrival.
  4. Subject keyword: In the parent’s out-of-office message, let the sender know that the parent is not reading emails unless it contains a keyword in the subject line. If the email is urgent, they can re-forward it to the parent on leave with that keyword, and it will be read.

Any combination of the above can be used! 

Calendar

If appropriate/necessary, the parent should block off their calendar with automated RSVP responses of “No” to any meeting invitation they receive while on leave.

Returning from Leave

Plan the example schedule for the first 4-6 weeks, and share this plan with the parent, manager, peers, and team before the parent goes on leave. This is the best way to set the right expectations for all involved. 

An example schedule:

  • Week 1: 
    • Start attending meetings, catch up on notes, have coffee with everyone on the team(s) they work with
  • Week 2: 
    • Start taking back some of parent’s former responsibilities, or new ones
  • Week 3: 
    • Have coffee and catch up with clients, partners, or other colleagues the parent works with less regularly
    • Meet with manager to talk about expectations for the rest of the current work period. This could be a month, quarter, half, or whole year. Talk about the challenges the parent is experiencing, what is going well with the adjustment, and what could be improved.
  • Week 4:
    • Continue onboarding, finish taking over either the list of responsibilities originally handed off, or new ones.

Parental Leave Cost Analysis Webinar (PL+US)

Join PL+US Workshop Manager, Như Tiên Lữ, and PL+US HR Expert, Juliet Gorman, while they discuss the cost benefit analysis of parental leave. Watch the video below:

Parental Leave Cost Analysis Calculator (PL+US)

Access the PL+US Parental Leave Cost Analysis Calculator below to help aide you in prediction the cost or savings of implementing a parental leave program in your business.

Parental Leave Cost Analysis Guide (PL+US)

Understand the costs and savings from offering paid family and medical leave at your business.

Proposal for Paid Family Leave | Template (PL+US)

The following pages outline the essentials you’ll need for taking a proposal for Paid Family Leave to your employer. As part of the package, we’ve included:

  • A letter to your employer
  • An outline for why Paid Family Leave matters and how it relates to your company
  • Sample policy language to develop a great policy

We’ve deliberately left our branding off the following pages so that you can own this as an internal company document/proposal. Feel free to add your company logo to the headers etc. as necessary. We’ve also tried to make this template as easy to use as possible, highlighting text throughout:

  • Orange highlighted text indicates areas that you should edit to include information relevant to your company/organization.
  • Green highlighted text indicates a note that you should delete after reading.

Once you’ve made all of the edits, you can select all text (Cmd/Cntl + A) and remove the highlights by clicking on the text color button in the toolbar, and selecting Highlight > None.

For further support on this, contact us directly at workshop@paidleave.us.


[ Your Company Logo ]

Proposal for Paid Family Leave

To:      [Names, Titles, or “Executive Committee”]

From:  [Your Name/s, Titles]

Re:      Paid Family Leave

[Company name] is a leader in the [industry] field. Paid family leave is a rapidly growing trend in businesses across the country, allowing employees to be with their families when they’re needed most. Providing paid family leave improves retention, productivity, and competitiveness, and is strongly aligned with our values as a company.

We have an opportunity to become leaders in paid family leave.

This document outlines our proposal for a paid family leave policy at [Company Name]. We look forward to discussing it with you in our meeting scheduled for [date, time and location].

Thank you in advance,

— [Your Name/s]


Why Paid Family Leave

[Company Name] values families, cares about its employees, prides itself on employee retention and staff development, and strives to create a positive work culture. We must continue to evolve our benefits in order to align with our values and to remain competitive with talent recruitment and current employee retention.

A strong paid family leave policy can:

  • Strengthen employee loyalty and retention, and boost morale[1]
  • Distinguish our company, and make hiring and talent acquisition more competitive and attractive
  • Provide our company with opportunities for reputation-boosting PR
  • Improve the health of children and families, as well as support greater gender equity in the workplace[2]

What our Employees Say: Testimonials

This story is from Samantha Martin, who wanted to share her story. She worked as one of our front desk receptionists for four years but left last year.

I loved working there, but wanted to start a family. I realized that I would be much better off at a company that offered paid parental leave. I’m pregnant now and grateful that I changed jobs last year so that I can afford to take 12 weeks off of work when my baby comes.

This story came from one employee in our company who has worked here for three years in the marketing department. He asked me to not include his name, but wanted me to share his story with you:

My husband and I are in a same-sex marriage and were on a waiting list for years to adopt a child. Our company’s policy doesn’t include adoptive parents, so we didn’t have paid leave. When we found out that our newborn daughter was coming to us, we cobbled together vacation and sick days while my husband negotiated an unpaid leave to care for our new baby for six weeks. Scrambling to carve out time with our newborn was a distraction during our first days of parenthood. Those first weeks were wonderful, sleepless, and challenging. While we were able to take time with her it was hard knowing that my colleagues who are parents had been respected and supported by our company with a paid parental policy that discriminated against my family because we are a little different

Our Current Policy

[Include the company’s current policy here].

[COMPANY NAME]

  • Parental Leave: X weeks of paid parental leave, in addition to X weeks of disability for biological mothers (paid at X%).
  • Family Caregiving Leave: X weeks available to care for a seriously ill family member
  • Personal Medical Leave: X weeks available to address an employee’s own serious illness (not sick days)

Benchmarking Competitor Policies

In order to be a leader in our field, we should know what our competitors are offering. We researched a few of our competitors in the _X__ industry (or in the region) and here’s what we found:

[COMPETITOR NAME 1]

  • Parental Leave: X weeks of paid parental leave, in addition to X weeks of disability for biological mothers (paid at X%).
  • Family Caregiving Leave: X weeks available to care for a seriously ill family member
  • Personal Medical Leave: X weeks available to address an employee’s own serious illness (not sick days)

[COMPETITOR NAME 2]

  • Parental Leave: X weeks of paid parental leave, in addition to X weeks of disability for biological mothers (paid at X%).
  • Family Caregiving Leave: X weeks available to care for a seriously ill family member
  • Personal Medical Leave: X weeks available to address an employee’s own serious illness (not sick days)

Note: if you have more than 2–3 companies to include, you can use and edit this sample Benchmarking Competitors’ Offerings Chart:

Proposed Policy

Describe your proposed policy as completely as possible, so that your company’s executive team has a clear understanding of what it is considering. [Our company] policy should be offered to all employees: to birth parents and adoptive parents to bond with a newborn child; and to all employees for recovery from a serious health condition or to care for an ill family member, including chosen family.

More great policies are listed here: http://paidleave.us/paidleave_faq.

Below are suggested policy standards and sample language to use when developing your company’s policy.

PROPOSED POLICY — Gold Standard

  • Parental Leave: 24 weeks of paid parental leave for all new parents (paid at 100%). Short term disability runs concurrently
  • Family Caregiving Leave: 12 weeks available for care of a seriously ill family member
  • Personal Medical Leave: 12 weeks available to address an employee’s own serious illness (not including sick days)

PROPOSED POLICY — Silver Standard

  • Parental Leave: 12 weeks of paid parental leave for all new parents, in addition to 8 weeks of short term disability for birthing mothers (paid at 100%)
  • Family Caregiving Leave: 6 weeks available to care for a seriously ill family member
  • Personal Medical Leave: 6 weeks available to address an employee’s own serious illness (not including sick days)

Conclusion

Thank you for considering our proposal to establish a high-quality paid family leave program that we can be proud of. I’ve/We’ve attached some sample language that might be useful as you consider our proposal and I/we look forward to discussing next steps.

Paid Family Leave [Sample Policy Language]

All team members at [Company Name] are eligible for Paid Parental Leave, for up to [number of weeks] in the twelve-month period following the birth of a child, adoption of a child, or placement of a foster child in their home. Employees are always welcome and encouraged to talk with their managers about a return-to-work schedule with reduced or flexible work hours to accommodate family needs. EMPLOYEE NOTIFICATION: We ask that team members notify their manager and/or the CEO as soon as practicable about their intention to take parental leave.

REMUNERATION SOURCE FOR PARENTAL LEAVE: For employees in states with Paid Family Leave schemes, your salary will be in part provided by State Disability Insurance (or equivalent system), and the remaining ‘top up’, up to 100% of your regular salary, will be paid by [Company Name]. At the conclusion of your SDI entitlements, [Company Name] will continue to pay you your full salary.

Family and Medical Leave will be granted for the following reasons:

  • To care for an employee’s family member – spouse, registered domestic partner, child, parent, sibling, chosen family, grandparent or other qualifying family member – with a serious health condition
  • When the employee is unable to return to work because of a ‘serious health condition’ (See definition below).

An employee may be eligible for the following combined total of family and medical leave for the reasons listed above, within a 12 month period:

  • Up to [number of weeks] paid family and medical leave
  • Up to a further [number of weeks] of unpaid family and medical leave

You may be eligible to take family and medical leave on an intermittent basis, or to work a reduced schedule. You will be required to discuss and negotiate with your Manager and/or the CEO any proposed leave so as not to unduly disrupt the company’s operations.

SERIOUS HEALTH CONDITION

As defined under the Family and Medical Leave Act, [Company Name] has adopted ‘serious health condition’ to mean an illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves:

  • any period of incapacity or treatment connected with inpatient care (i.e., an overnight stay) in a hospital, hospice, or residential medical care facility; or
  • a period of incapacity requiring absence of more than three calendar days from work, school, or other regular daily activities that also involves continuing treatment by (or under the supervision of) a healthcare provider; or
  • any period of incapacity due to pregnancy, or for prenatal care; or
  • any period of incapacity (or treatment therefore) due to a chronic serious health condition (e.g., asthma, diabetes, epilepsy, etc.); or
  • a period of incapacity that is permanent or long-term due to a condition for which treatment may not be effective (e.g., Alzheimer’s, stroke, terminal diseases, etc.); or,
  • any absences to receive multiple treatments (including any period of recovery therefrom) by, or on referral by, a healthcare provider for a condition that likely would result in incapacity of more than three consecutive days if left untreated (e.g., chemotherapy, physical therapy, dialysis, etc.).

[1] Boston Consulting Group 2017 “Why Paid Family Leave is Good for Business”

[2] New America Foundation 2017 “Paid Family Leave: How Much Time is Enough” https://www.newamerica.org/better-life-lab/policy-papers/paid-family-leave/

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PTA-Approved Resources for Employers

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