Supporting Employees on Paid Family Leave
By Phil Bruen, VP
Group Life and Disability Products
While a handful of states now mandate paid leave be offered by private employers, many employers also offer paid family leave to compete in today’s hot job market. For all employers, it is a business imperative to marry the benefit with a strong support strategy for employees taking and returning from a leave.
Employers offering paid parental leave increased significantly between 2016 and 2018 for every type of parental leave, according to the Society for Human Resource Management’s 2018 Employee Benefits Survey.1 Employers offering paid maternity leave increased from 26% in 2016 to 35% in 2018, and paid paternity leave increased from 21% to 29% over the same period. And we’re seeing strong utilization rates for New York State Paid Family Leave, which reaffirms the desire for this benefit.
With this increase in leave offerings and utilization, it is imperative for companies to have a well-thought-out strategy for successfully reintegrating employees back into the organization when they return from leave, as well as to consider appropriate ways to interact with employees while on leave to further ease their return. Through technology, flexibility, and human connection, employers can increase the retention and productivity of employees on leave and those returning.
To start, consider how technology can keep employees on leave feeling included and connected to their team and organization. Many employers incorporate an online dashboard that on-leave employees can access from anywhere for important information, such as their benefits or company news. Because many employers remove email access for their workers on leave, employees often feel when they come back from leave that they have an overwhelming amount of new information to catch up on. Offering a modified in-box with semiregular updates from an employee’s team, for example, means they stay connected and informed, helping to avoid feelings of isolation while on leave.
Technology can also help during return to work by supporting flexibility for employees. As organizations grow increasingly global, technology is being used to aid connectivity among colleagues. By applying these technologies to offer flexible work situations, employees transitioning back to full- or part-time work can be productive and engaged on a schedule that best suits their current life.
According to MetLife’s 16th annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study,2 nearly three quarters (72%) of employees report that having the option to work remotely is important to their work/life balance. And offering a flexible schedule — something 74% of employees say is important when considering a new job — builds loyalty.
Finally, it is imperative for employers to support the career goals of workers coming back from a leave. Often, employees returning from leave struggle to continue on the same career trajectory, particularly if they are using flexible work arrangements. Learning and development opportunities, such as training and mentorship networks, are beneficial to all employees for career development, and can be particularly useful for those who return from an absence with additional responsibilities at home. Through these opportunities, colleagues can share guidance and best practices from similar experience, such as returning to work as a caregiver, further supporting workers’ needs to maintain work/life balance.
As more employers offer paid family leave and more employees use it, organizations must understand that opportunities for engagement do not end once the benefit is offered. In fact, that’s only the start. Thankfully, technology affords today’s workforce additional flexibility and opportunities for connection — with their employer and their colleagues — that drive increased loyalty and improved productivity upon return from leave.
- SHRM. 2018 Employee Benefits Survey. Retrieved at https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/trends-and-forecasting/research-and-surveys/Documents/2018%20Employee%20Benefits%20Report.pdf
- MetLife. 16th Annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study. 2018. Retrieved at https://benefittrends.metlife.com