Leaves of absence – to pay or not to pay?

Have you thought about your leave of absence plans? Richard Branson has!

Maternity leave is usually what we talk about in the U.S. as a primary leave of absence under the FMLA. For employers who are not required to follow FMLA (less than 50 employees and other concerns or if you’re not sure, see FMLA Leave at the DOL site FMLA does not require payment to employees when they take a leave of absence. And of course there’s controversy about the idea of paid leave versus the protection of your job. This is sometimes a contentious issue for legislators and human rights champions but it’s an awfully difficult question for the business owner or HR professional. How do we manage the necessity for providing someone ample time to care for themselves and their child, preserve their position and ensure the least disruption to the business? Oh and, by the way, can we keep it as cost minimal as possible? Right. Not easy.

Let’s be practical – and it’s something you’ll notice Mr Branson is doing at Virgin with his new paternity leave. It is indeed a paid leave, but he’s making it available to a sub-set of his companies. He’s testing the waters, so to speak, with the volume of utilization and cost. This will allow his team to determine two things.

1) Is this a benefit that will be used and valued by employees?

2) What will be the cost?

No doubt the team at Virgin have already projected both of these factors. And you should too before implementing any benefit. In addition, you should consider whether offering such a benefit is precedent setting or establishes a sense of entitlement. Precedents and entitlements can upset your otherwise positive culture, so proceed with caution!

Check out Richard Branson in the following link to Esquire Magazine. Let me know what you think – or contact me if I can help you!

Read about Sir Richard Branson and his changes at Virgin in Esquire Magazine. 
PS – beware of discriminatory practices with offering a benefit to some but not all employees! Call me if you need help!