A young staff member just announced that she is expecting a baby. An exciting time for sure but a time when questions about maternity leave will inevitable come up.
Maternity leave should be part of a broader policy that includes FMLA leave.
FMLA leave for church employees may be found only if the Church meets the fifty‑employee coverage test, however covering employees during a leave is often simply the right thing to do.
Regardless, most churches (with available resources) want to support their employees when they have children.
6 Tips For Handling Maternity Leave At Your Church
1. Create A FMLA Policy
As with all church policies, writing them down, and knowing the answer before it is asked, relieves undue anxiety when the inevitable questions come up.
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was signed in 1993 and was written to help people keep their job in the event of a family or personal illness and ensures protection for employees who find themselves dealing with a health condition or a sick family member.
Under FMLA, employees are entitled up to 12 weeks of job-protected, unpaid leave for medical and family care. Employees must work for a covered employer for a minimum of one year and for a minimum of 1,250 hours over a 12 month period of time to qualify.
Create a FMLA policy that explains the who, what, where, when and how to use FMLA leave.
2. Design A Process
Small churches, in particular, don’t use policies like this very often which means there typically isn’t a fine-tuned process.
Take the time to create a flow chart of the process and have this picture available for employees to review in the employee manual.
Include necessary forms and documents that are required for the leave.
3. Answer The Questions Before They Are Asked
Now might be the time to think about a maternity leave policy and have the answers to the questions a new mom will be asking.
An employee is going to want to know:
- Am I eligible for paid leave?
- How long will I be paid?
- How long can I be away from my job and be certain it will be waiting for me when I return?
- Will my health benefits continue while I am on leave?
- Can I return part-time for a period of time?
- I am the Dad, will I get paid time off to be with a newborn?
Take the time to brainstorm the questions you would ask and answer them. Put together a FAQ sheet that you can have in the manual or available in PDF format on your intranet.
4. Make A Plan For Coverage During The Leave
The hardest part of being away from a job for a few weeks or months is returning to unfinished tasks that stack up.
Solicit volunteers or ask for the help of other employees to bridge the gap. Consider those tasks that might be ok to leave undone but designate someone to do those must do job responsibilities.
Ask the departing employee to create detailed instructions with her own FAQ’s to answer any questions a substitute would ask.
For instance, ask her to create a sheet with all login information, main contact information and location of necessary supplies, equipment or documents.
5. Don’t Forget The Dads
Dads are often forgotten when so much attention is given to a new mom. Take care of the Dads by considering their needs during this time.
Many organizations now offer Paternity leave for the new Dads. Include paternity leave in your FMLA policy and create the same process and steps for the Dads.
6. Include Adoptive Parents
Don’t forget about those couples who adopt babies. My son adopted a baby and had 8 hours to make it to an out of state hospital. While these situations are unusual, they do happen so if an employee has begun an adoption process help them access benefits and prepare for a leave.
Watching new families grow is a fun thing to be part of. Take care of your young families by having a policy, a process and good communication of available leave benefits.
If you would like to see a sample FMLA leave policy, click here.
How do you handle maternity leave at your church?