22 November 2023 |

📄 policy power moves

By Hebba Youssef

✍🏽 What are some best practices for writing parental leave policies? Any system or tools you’d suggest for how to administer/track parental leave?

Context: People leader at a series B startup that is progressive in their policies and looking for solutions to fit that.

📣 Cassandra Babilya, Head of Employee Experience Strategy at Amazon:

Here’s some parental benefits I recommend for startups and mature companies alike.

The Basics

📆 Paid parental leave. At least 12 weeks. An additional 6-8 for birthing parents. Available at day 1 of employment. Applied to adoptions and surrogacy as well, of course! 

📎 Flexible work options. Reduced hours, flexible hours, remote work. Whatever makes sense for the family. 

🍼 Comfortable pumping space and milk storage facilities. 

👩🏻‍⚕️ EAP. Mental health support for employees and their family members.

Level up 

🧬 Family planning benefits. Ex: up to $20k for IVF, egg freezing, or surrogacy. 

👦🏽 Subsidized on-site daycare or child care credits through a service like Caredotcom for occasional backup care.

A note on pregnancy loss
1 in 4 pregnancies end in loss. Employers can support their teams through this by applying parental leave (as much as the employee needs) to loss. Loss includes termination for medical reasons, miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant death. It also includes failed surrogacy and adoptions.

📣 Lisa Van Lenner, VP, Operations, People & Culture at Mythical:

What Cassandra laid out is both the dream and super reasonable to expect! Beyond the leave policy and support when the parent returns, it’s also important to think about workflow for the parent and their department. Be really detailed about how responsibilities are being delegated while they’re gone. Make sure whomever is taking the workload from this person shadows them prior to departure. The last thing anyone wants is to have to call a parent on leave to ask about an outstanding issue. This delegation plan should be accessible to anyone who works with this person – everyone should know the dates the parents is leaving and coming back.

A new parent returning to work (especially to a remote environment) is daunting! Ensure their return is welcoming,  that people know how soon to start looping them back into emails and projects. Balance all the info with reasonable deadlines to help them get up to speed — ideally alongside whomever was handling their workload. It shouldn’t be a cut and dry offloading of duties the day they’re back.  Encourage them to have a touch point with HR for the first few months that they’re back to talk about engagement, support and professional development as they re-enter the job.

📣 Marcie Chavez, Director of People at Artisight:

The only thing I have to add is that you can ask your benefits broker if they have benchmark reports on parental leave (what other companies your size or stage typically offer) or any preferred vendors to use to help administer/track leave. Many have partnerships with companies that can help out in those areas.

📣 Blake Maurer, Director of People & Culture at NLA:

Yes, to everything already said. Adding to Cassandra’s “level up” category: this article is about a nonprofit that secured a paid 40-week parental leave policy.  One more thing to think about is looking at how your policy interacts with state leave plans that are already in place in 11 states. 2 orgs that I’ve worked for offer to supplement the state leave payments because often they are capped out at a certain percentage (similar to unemployment payments).

📣 Rachel Ackerman, Director, People Operations at Barstool Sports:

Literally all of the above is fire. 🔥

Parentaly is a really great org to tap into. They not only support the admin team, but also the managers and employees before, throughout, and after the leave process. They also offer some great free resources.

I’m in the process (in 2024) of developing a leave offboarding and onboarding processes that our team can share with managers and the employees taking a leave to make it the smoothest possible transition when they go out and return.

As for tracking leave, I’ve used both Sparrow and Tilt for leave admin and both were great partners.

✍🏽 How do I tell my boss the CHRO/company leadership that her constant policy exceptions based on employee longevity/perceived need/likability and her resistance to new policy ideas make it harder to attract and retain the talent we need?

Context: I work for a mid-size company (~200 employees). My boss wants to attract new talent and help keep the staff we have, but her idea of “being competitive” is having the same benefits as similar companies (i.e. PTO amount/use, bereavement, etc.) despite HR suggesting a change that would set us apart or to match current research. On several occasions, she’s made exceptions to policies that I think will hurt the company in the long run.

📣 Marcie Chavez, Director of People at Artisight:

This is a very tough situation to be in! A couple of ways to approach this comes to mind.

If you have access to legal counsel, I’ve found they are a great resource to help persuade executives when there is potential risk to certain decisions or exceptions to policies (and I am not getting through to them as the HR person). Leverage general counsel as much as possible.

Additionally, you can try using a conflict / communication tactic called “verbal aikido” to help communicate between the both of you and have an open dialogue. You can try to make business cases for the policy/benefits changes you have in mind with data or $ to support the changes, or employee/candidate feedback from surveys.
In the end, if you cannot convince the CHRO of trying to limit exceptions based on the potential risks and impact on recruiting and retention, and therefore this does not align with how you want to practice HR, you may have to look at leaving the organization. 

📣 Laura García-Courrau, Global Director of HR at Our World Energy: 

+1 to everything Marcie mentioned.

To add to Marcie’s comments, if you don’t have access to a GC but do want legal counsel, you can try Littler’s OnDemand product. We have an in-house GC and I still use them occasionally (🥴). Not cheap, but a great resource (not an affiliate lol).

Re: your leadership’s language of persuasion… what is theirs? Data? Comparison to competition? What format/s? Is there a specific way she/they best receive information?

Also, TIL about “verbal aikido”, so cool! Thanks for sharing that, Marcie!