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What's the Best Parental Leave Policy for Small Business?

By Christopher Coble, Esq. | Last updated on

Happy families make happy employees, and happy employees are good for business. But long employee absences from the office can be bad for business. As a country, the United States lags far behind other Western, industrialized nations in providing paid family leave, which has state legislators and presidential candidates looking to increase employee protections and pay when taking family time off.

You want to take care of your employees, but not at the cost of your small business. So what are you legally required to do when it comes to paid family leave, and what should your small business be doing?

Federally, paid family leave is governed by the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The FMLA only applies to businesses with 50 or more employees, and to employees who work at least 1,250 hours and live within 75 miles of the employer. If the FMLA does apply to your business, you must give eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year.

Even if the federal FMLA doesn't apply to your small business, a local city or state statute may. For instance, California is known for giving employees more paid time off, and San Francisco is looking to become the first city to require businesses to give employees six weeks of paid parental leave. So whether and how much paid or unpaid family leave you must give your employees may depend on where you're located.

Your Corporate Culture

Beyond whether you must offer paid family leave is whether you should offer paid family leave. Bigger companies like Spotify and Yahoo have begun to offer expanded family leave benefits as a bargaining tool to recruit and retain talented employees. But for smaller companies, six months of paid family leave may cripple productivity.

It can be tough to balance the competing needs of your employees and your small business, and it may come down to the kind of work you do and the kind of company you want to be. As far as your legal requirements, you may want to talk to an experienced employment law attorney about setting up a paid family leave program for your small business.

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