Your employee has approached you to tell you that she (or he!) is expecting a child. The employee is excited, but also nervous about the impact this personal life event will have on their work life.
As a business owner or HR professional, you may also be a little nervous. Particularly at small or medium-sized organizations, each role holds huge weight. An employee’s departure, even if it’s temporary, can be a big transition for your company, especially if this is the first time you’re dealing with a maternity or parental leave.
Preparing ahead of time will help ease your and your employee’s worries while keeping business running smoothly. Here are seven steps to help you prepare for your employee’s maternity or parental leave:
1. Get familiar with maternity and parental leave laws and employee rights
Your employee may be the one who is pregnant, the partner, or a parent-to-be who’s adopting. In all these situations, it’s important that you understand how maternity and parental leave benefits work in your province, so that you can help guide your employee based on his or her situation.
How Maternity and Parental Leave Benefits Work in Canada
Need an overview of the key things you should know ahead of your employee’s request for maternity or parental leave?
2. Review your maternity/parental leave policy
To be properly prepared to handle a maternity or parental leave request, you should have a policy in place. If you don’t have one, you know what we’re going to say: there’s no time like the present!
This policy can include benefit top-ups, accommodations, how much notice your employee should give, and more.
Some accommodations you may want to consider offering are flexible work hours or the option to work from home, especially for a pregnant employee who will need to make frequent doctor’s visits leading up to their due date. During the winter season, providing the option to work from home will also help to ensure your employee’s safety while pregnant.
You should also have a look at your province’s treatment of vacation days and health benefits during maternity and parental leave. In Ontario, employees have the right to continue to participate in pension, life insurance, accidental death, extended health and dental plans during their leave.
Ontario employees also have the right to accrue vacation time based on what is stated in their employment contract. For example, if your employee gets three weeks of vacation per year, they’ll be able to accrue that time during their leave. Your company policy should state by when they should take that accumulated time off. A common approach is to have the new parent take their vacation days right after their leave has ended. This way, they’ll get extra time with their newborn.
3. Have a meeting with your employee
Now that you have all the information regarding government and your company’s policy on maternity and parental leave, you should schedule a one-on-one meeting with your employee.
In this meeting, you should discuss your employee’s options, let them know about your company policy, and answer any questions they may have. At this point, you should have a clear idea on the duration of your employee’s leave and any accommodations he/she may need.
Also, ahead of this meeting, you should have your employee prepare a list of his/her tasks and projects. Then, during the meeting you can discuss in detail what they are and whether he/she has any recommendation as to who can take over certain responsibilities while he/she gone.
4. Prepare accommodations for your employee
If you’re offering your employee flexible hours in the lead up to their leave or following their return from their leave, you should be sure to have them properly communicate that schedule with you, their manager, and their team members, so that everyone is aware when they will be available.
If you’re giving your employee the option to work from home before or after their leave, then you should make sure they have all the proper equipment and technology to be able to do so. If there’s a meeting, will they need to be in the office or can they join in through videoconference? How will you be able to contact them? These are things you should discuss and determine with your employee. Technology such as Zoom for video meetings and Slack for team messaging are just a few of the tools you can leverage for your workforce to keep in contact with one another remotely.
A pregnancy also comes with frequent doctors’ visits. Whether your employee is an expectant mother or father, it’s a good idea to discuss the preferred way to handle those appointments. Will he or she need to take personal days, can that time at the doctor’s count as a lunch break, or will there be flexibility with the expectation that the employee will make up that time? It’s important that you are both are on the same page when it comes to expectations. That way, you can be more organized and not plan a meeting or be trying to chase the employee down when they are at a doctor’s appointment, for example.
5. Create a plan for a smooth transition
In some instances, you may be able to distribute your employee’s tasks and projects to other team members. If not, you may need to hire someone on contract to take over your employee’s role while they’re gone.
In either situation, have your employee create a record of all critical information pertaining to his or her role. For example, any logins, rules or steps for particular tasks, project dates, and the departments and people within them that are tied to their role and how.
This will help avoid the need for those covering your employee’s tasks/projects to have to scramble to figure something out while they’re gone. Instead, they’ll have a document to refer to. Your employee should also explain how and where their teammates can go to find that information, and go through it with them step-by-step so that they understand everything.
If possible, have the employee who will be going on leave provide training and context to the team members who will be taking on their responsibilities in their absence. Then, slowly have those people take on those tasks and projects while your employee is still around so that he or she can help answer any questions.
If you’re hiring someone to take on your employee’s role while they’re on leave, then you should consider whether it is feasible to bring them on before the leave begins, so that they have enough time to learn the ropes.
6. Schedule check-ins leading up to their date of departure
Make sure to regularly check in with your employee so that everything goes according to plan. Consider setting up monthly one-on-one meetings, for example, to give you both a chance to discuss how things are going and to address any questions or concerns that may be on your employee’s mind.
Keeping communication open with your expecting employee also shows him or her that you care and are here to help make the transition as smooth and stress-free as possible.
7. Don’t forget to give your employee a proper send off!
This is an exciting time for your employee! Remember to congratulate them. This is a great opportunity to show your employee that you value the role they play within the company. Going the extra mile to throw him or her a small baby shower or office party can make a huge difference in how he or she feels about working for your company. It’s also a nice way to boost office morale with a fun get-together for your employees.
Taking the time to plan ahead for your employee’s maternity/parental leave is a huge help, especially as the date of his or her departure approaches. Becoming a new parent or adding a new member to the family is an exciting time, and anything you and your company are able to do to relieve stress will be appreciated and remembered by your employee.