A new baby is the best thing ever, and not just for the parents. You probably throw baby showers for all expectant employees, and send them out on parental leave with giant gift baskets and well wishes for what’s to come. Everything is seemingly perfect when they step out that office door.
And then, that new mom (or dad, but mostly mom) quits her job.
One year after giving birth, about a third of women haven’t returned to the workforce. This is not necessarily a bad thing, unless that person feels forced into stay-at-home motherhood. However, if someone wants to be working but leaves their job because of the increased responsibilities and stress—plus the high cost of daycare—well, that’s not a good thing.
So what can you do to make your business more attractive to new parents? Here are five ideas.
1. Offer meaningful maternity and paternity benefits.
The first and most important thing? Make your business appealing to people who are thinking about having kids. If you offer paid maternity and paternity leave—beyond your federal and state requirements—that’s the best way to keep employees (and potential employees) happy when the big day comes. In fact, moms that take paid leave are 93 percent more likely to stay working after their child’s birth, compared to those who don’t take it.
Very few moms want to return to work a few weeks after giving birth, so think about what you can do to extend leaves. Generally, if you’re running a business that has had 50 or more employees for at least 20 weeks in the last couple years, you have to grant 12 weeks of unpaid leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). If you’re running a school, you always have to offer this leave.
Employees qualify for leave if they can check both points:
- Work within 75 miles of at least 50 people on your team.
- Been at your company for at least 12 months (working at least 1,250 hours in the last year there).
Remember, mom and dad can both take leave, although if the two parents work for the same company, you only have to grant 12 weeks total, not 24. This also applies if the baby is adopted or is an older foster child.
2. Let parents ease back into work.
FMLA doesn’t require you to allow intermittent leave for child bonding. That is, you can require your employees to use their leave all at once. But just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Instead, consider letting new parents work part-time for a while. Or permanently.
In fact, almost 50 percent of moms with children at home say that part-time work is the ideal situation. Often times, people think part-time work should just be low-wage work, but it doesn’t have to be. Many professional jobs can be done on a part-time or job-share basis.
If you make a part-time job option available, you’ll attract a lot of parents who are looking for the best of both worlds.
3. Have set schedules.
For jobs that are based on shifts, like retail or restaurant positions, setting a predictable schedule can make work a lot easier on new parents. Why? Because it’s really difficult to arrange childcare if you don’t know when you’ll be working every week.
Steer clear of unpredictable shift schedules by:
- Including the right mix of skills in a single shift. If you need both a cashier and a host during the lunch rush, make sure you’ve scheduled those two roles ahead of time to avoid any last-minute calls.
- Adding more people during the busy times. Whether it’s a performance or the holidays, know when you’ll actually need an extra set of hands.
4. Help with childcare.
Childcare is ridiculously pricey and in some areas, it’s also nearly impossible to find. The Economic Policy Institute found that in 23 states, the price of full-time care for a four-year-old was more expensive than in-state college tuition. Seriously.
While it would be super if your business could subsidize childcare, most small businesses can’t afford such a thing. But you could afford to sponsor Dependent Care Flexible Savings Accounts, which allows parents to pay for daycare with pre-tax dollars. They can also use it to pay for the following things:
- Elder care
- Summer camp
- After-school care
- And other types of care situations
Families can contribute up to $5,000 total. That means both parents can’t have an FSA if the amount surpasses $5,000.
Additionally, you can dial up nearby daycares and try to get priority for your employees’ children.
5. Be flexible, but not too flexible.
Yes, it’s important to keep your new parents onboard, but it’s also important to keep all your employees happy. Sometimes businesses make the mistake of bending over backwards to give new parents the best schedule, the first choice for holidays, and an easy out for needed overtime work. This is a considerate thing to do, but it can also breed resentment among the other staff members.
Whatever policies you implement should be accessible to all types of employees—not just the new parents. Remember that non-parents can enjoy the benefits of things like flexible PTO and consistent schedules just as much as parents.
Overall, focus on being a great employer for everyone.
That’s really what it comes down to. If your company has thoughtful management, fair policies, and market rate pay, that will go a long way towards keeping all talented employees—new parents or not.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent Gusto’s views.
Employment laws can be tricky and can vary by state, so we recommend that you consult with an HR expert or employment attorney if you have any parental leave questions about your specific business.