Parental Leave Laws And Working Parents

Date: September 21, 2017

Originally published in Association Trends magazine.

It is no secret that working parents sometimes struggle to balance family obligations with work commitments. While federal law provides time off for working parents for the birth or adoption of a child, the time off is unpaid. U.S. laws have been slow to provide parents paid leave for the birth or adoption of a child; however, there is new hope. The first budget proposed by the current administration proposes paid parental leave for up to six weeks for mothers and fathers for the birth or adoption of a child. If adopted, this would be the first paid parental leave law in the United States. Even if the law is not passed, now is a good time to review your association's policies to make your association attractive to working parents, as well as help improve productivity of current employees.

Most associations offer unpaid leave under the Family Medical Leave Act, which covers, among other things, unpaid time off for the birth and adoption of a child. However, some organizations do not have the requisite number of employees (i.e. 50 employees) to be covered by FMLA. For this reason, some states have adopted their own parental leave laws that apply to smaller employers and also allow paid time off for the birth or adoption of a child. For example, California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Washington, New York and the District of Columbia all have adopted some form of paid family leave. Also, FMLA laws do not necessarily address all the hardships a working parent may face. Thus, some states have adopted small necessities leave laws that allow working parents to take time off to attend school activities, as well as medical and dental appointments for their children.

It is important to know what parental leave laws your state provides, as well as what your association's policies are for working parents. Even if your state does not have parental leave laws, it does not mean your association cannot adopt policies recognizing the needs of working parents. For example, an association can adopt its own paid leave policy for maternity and paternity leave. In addition, associations can develop a policy that encourages working parents to attend child-related activities and policies that provide for telework or similar flexibly work arrangements. Furthermore, other additional benefits that assist working parents overcome hurdles they may face include subsidizing daycare costs, offering concierge services, allowing unlimited paid time off, and communicating the association's commitment to family-friendly values. Studies show that such benefits and policies make for more productive employees, increase employee morale, and retention of employees.