5 no-cost ways boost your parental leave benefits

Parental leave benefits are on the rise -- but is it enough? Is this what parents need and will encourage them to stay with your company as they grow their family?

It’s part of the equation for sure. Parents need that time to heal, to bond, to give their new family the strong foundations that will support them for years to come.

The other - often overlooked - part is how those benefits are communicated.

It's no secret that navigating benefits can be overwhelming. Did you know that expectant parents spend 43 hours trying to figure out the what, when, and hows of their parental leave benefits? 43 hours!! All that confusion, frustration, and anger isn’t good for anyone.

The personal stories are just as telling. Here are a handful of comments I’ve heard from expectant and new parents:

“I have decision fatigue just from opening up our intranet page. I don’t know where to begin.”

“We have a LOA system but it’s all automated and I can’t get through to a real person.”

“My husband was going to take just 2 weeks vacation because no one told him about paternity leave until after we had the baby.”

“My company offers a lot of leave on paper but discourages us from using it.”

These types of comments don’t inspire confidence that the employer is providing the support valued employees need. And certainly not things you want to have said about your company on Glassdoor, Reddit, or LinkedIn. Many of the parents quoted above work at great companies who offer fantastic benefits - they just couldn’t communicate them effectively. Parents were not feeling the support and care the company intended.

My question for you is “What message do you want expectant employees to hear?”

After investing a great deal of time and resources into creating parental leave packages, you want to make sure you are achieving the desired results - productive, confident, loyal new parent employees.

Here are 5 no-cost initiatives you can take to level up your parental leave offerings:

#1 Put all information about parental leave and benefits in an easy to find location.

Yes, I realize this sounds like a no-brainer but you would be shocked how many different places expectant parents have to go to simply find the information they need. And how often they report that HR doesn’t have the info at their fingertips. One new mom told me that she felt like HR was developing the parental leave process as they went along. I later found out that company had 250 babies born the prior year! Oof - where was the SOP?

Build a clear, user-friendly page on your intranet with all of the information in one place. Have a packet ready to go when someone tells you they are pregnant. Make sure all managers know where to direct folks when they are told the exciting news. Make this a repeatable process to save time for both your HR team and the employee.

#2 Walk through the process as if you were an expectant employee

Or better yet - ask an employee who isn’t familiar with benefits to do so and watch over their shoulder. What information is not clear, not readily available, or needs more explanation? If the benefit is offered through a 3rd party - STD or state provided benefits for example - learn about their process and outline it for the employee. Are they areas where you can simplify or streamline the process?

To get started, take a look at these questions expectant employees may be asking and be sure your information flow provides answers.

#3 Be transparent about the return to work

There is always a risk that an employee is not going to return to work after taking parental leave. If someone makes this decision from a place of strength and feels like this is best for their family, there isn’t much an employer can do. However, so many people leave because they are making the decision from a place of fear, overwhelm, and uncertainty.

When someone tells you that they are taking leave because they are growing their family, start the conversation about their return. Acknowledge that it can be challenging and reassure them that you will work with them through the transition. Let them know if you offer returnships or flex schedules for new parents. Connect them with the parent group so they have a community to support them. Building that connection will ease their minds and help them come back with confidence.

And while you are talking about the future -

#4 Tell employees about all family-friendly benefits

Expectant employees will often seek out information about their leave benefits because that is what is most pressing on their mind. However, this is a great time to remind them about all family-friendly benefits that you offer. Lactation support, childcare support, milk shipping, flex time, retail discounts, and more. Let them know that their insurance company and the EAP offer great resources for parents of all ages and stages. Give them faith that you will continue to support them as their children grow up.

#5 Make a personal connection

Becoming a parent or expanding a family is a major transition and employees benefit from extra TLC during this phase of life. Check in with them periodically. Just asking how they are doing and listening goes a long way. Send a note with an article or a reminder about the caregiver ERG or other parent network. This is a perfect opportunity for a working parent coordinator or even an LOA coordinator to help parents make connections that will buoy them throughout pregnancy and their return to work.

We acknowledge that having a family is a major risk for employee retention. And we see all that you are doing to put family friend practices in place - starting with offering a parental leave package. Maximize your efforts by implementing these steps today.

Not sure where to start? Soutiens can help kick off your efforts. Using a novel approach to communicating everything expectant parents need to know, our Baby On Board(ing) sessions assure employees that you will be with them every step of the way. We work with human resource professionals to create an event that integrates benefits, parent community, and practical information in a streamlined manner, saving you time and increasing consistency in messaging. Contact us to learn more at info@soutiens.us