- At the beginning of 2020, Holler did not have a parental leave policy in place and knew we needed one
- We did extensive research and decided to offer 16 weeks of salary and benefits leave to the primary parent and 4 weeks to the secondary parent
- We also provide a smooth transition from and back to work through our HR tool Gather, which connects the parent to our HR team and their direct manager during important transitions
- We will continue to look for more ways to improve our parental leave program, particularly for secondary parents, and provide more comprehensive education to our employees about parental leave benefits
At the beginning of 2020, as a young startup, Holler didn’t have a parental leave policy in place. We knew we needed to create one as soon as possible. The creation of this policy would set a strong precedent for our support of our employees hoping to grow their families. This is especially true for women within our company; research has shown that women are much less likely to remain employed full time, especially with young children. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2019, 80.3% of employed mothers with children ages 6 to 17 worked full time, compared with 75.8% of mothers with children under age 6. Employed fathers with younger and older children were about equally likely to work full time, at 96.1% and 96.2%, respectively.
We wanted to create a parental leave plan that encouraged people to invest in their new family, not present obstacles to it, so we set out to create a policy that allowed new parents the much needed time away from work to bond with a new family member, but also the financial support many families count on during this time.
Formulating a Parental Leave Plan
We looked at a number of data points when ideating around our policy. We, as always, took the approach of “People First,” focusing mostly on what was going to provide the employee what they need. We did use some resources to better understand what other companies, both at a similar size and stage to us, as well as what companies we aspire to be, are offering.
This comparative information can be found across various websites including Glassdoor, Pledge Parental Leave, various articles and directly on company websites. Given the size of our team and resources available to us, our goal was to land somewhere between companies of our size and the Googles of the world.
After researching, we established a policy that offers 16 weeks of salary and benefits continuation, as well as a total of six months of job-protected leave for the birth-giving parent. For those families that are adopting, we offer this leave for the primary caregiver. For non-birth giving parents, or the second caregiver in adoption, we offer 4 weeks of salary and benefits continuation. This is in addition to any other benefits and protections employees may be eligible for through other programs.
Taking it a Step Further
It was also important for us to take it one step further to ensure the women and/or primary caregivers in our company feel supported for the entirety of the process, starting from planning their leave and carrying on through their return to the workplace. We approached this from two angles; preparing for leave and returning to work.
Helping Parents Prepare for Leave
To help expecting parents, we created a thorough document to help guide them through the process of preparing for parental leave. The documents explain the Holler program details, the various leaves they may be eligible for, documents and their correlating deadlines for submission, and contact numbers for each leave type. We also include helpful information for how to create a transition plan and an FAQ to address some additional common questions. Our Head of People also spends time with each employee planning a leave to further explain the process and help them understand and plan for their specific leave based on what programs they’re eligible for.
Supporting Parents Returning to Work
With the use of one of our favorite HR tools, Gather, we created a workflow focused on the return to work process. The Gather platform allows us to build a custom process that automates all the necessary touchpoints and check-ins through Slack reminders. When building our process, we focused on having touchpoints from the HR team as well as the employee’s manager, ensuring that the returning employee knows they have support in both places and feels comfortable reaching out for assistance should they need it. Here is a quick look at our Gather workflows (one for managers and one for the employee):
This is where our parental leave benefit and support stands today but we know, like everything else, we have to review these policies and practices regularly to ensure they are inclusive and equitable.
One area that we want to spend more time on is our non-birth giving/secondary caregiver program. While four weeks is above and beyond what we generally saw offered by other companies, we are now understanding that the practice in corporate America of uneven leave time between parents is further driving the gap of women in leadership. We need a broader movement in the corporate world to level leaves and better spread out the responsibility of a new child between both parental roles.
We recognize that not each company can do everything (ourselves included!) If you are looking for ways your company can support a return to work for new parents and create an environment that is inclusive for working parents, here are a few low cost ideas that we are exploring ourselves:
- Better, equitable education on the topic.
- Many of the non-birth giving or secondary caregivers don’t realize what leave they are entitled to. Most employees who work for an employer with 50+ employees and have one year of service are eligible for 12 weeks of job protected leave under FMLA. Additionally, with most of our employees working for our NYC office, they are eligible for 10 weeks of NY Paid Family Leave, which provides some level of income during those 10 weeks. Education on this can go a long way to create more equitable leave options for both parents.
- Have documentation in place that provides insight into all available benefits and resources you offer for new parents throughout the entire process. Most of this information already exists within organizations, it just needs to be documented and shared.
- Stronger support upon returning to work.
- A modified return to work schedule is a great way to allow a returning parent to ease their way back into the workforce. Many companies that offer this will allow you to come back sooner at a modified schedule and extend the “leave” by a few weeks to provide the same amount of days as if you returned all at once. Other companies offer a reduced schedule and prorate an employee’s salary based on the number of days he/she is working (ex. If they work 3 days/ week they get paid 60% of their normal salary, 4 days/week would be 80% of their normal salary).
- Have tools in place that make returning parents feel the company is inclusive for parents. This includes flexible start and stop times, holding company events during the work day when possible, and having a Slack channel with current parents that new parents can use as a resource and a way to connect with others that have similar experiences.
- Being more family focused.
- During COVID it’s hard to include children and other family members in work events however, companies can look for ways to do so regardless. Some companies have found success in holding “camp” for their working parents’ children (hiring a professional to hold virtual reading sessions, etc.) while parents work. Once we return to an office environment, companies can choose to participate in “bring your child to work day” and allow parents to bring their children to overnight offsites with provided childcare during company activities.
What ways has your company found success in creating equitable and inclusive programs for new and experienced parents in the workplace?