Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Many churches employ young people because of their energy and creative abilities. Churches need these young people to keep them current and relevant to this generation.
However, young people have babies, and that means maternity leave.
I’m Having A Baby!
A young staff member just announced that she is expecting a baby.
It is an exciting time for sure, but a time when questions about maternity leave will inevitably come up.
Maternity leave should be part of a broader policy that includes FMLA leave.
FMLA leave for church employees may be necessary only if the Church meets the fifty‑employee coverage test.
However, covering employees during a sick 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 arise.
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was signed in 1993 and was written to help people keep their jobs in the event of a family or personal illness.
This Act ensures protection for employees who find themselves dealing with a health condition or a sick family member.
Under FMLA, employees are entitled to 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 an FMLA policy explaining 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.
For instance, help the employee understand their responsibilities for notification and preparation to be out of the office for an extended period of time. This may include preparing detailed instructions for the person(s) who will be covering their job responsibilities.
Include necessary forms and documents that are required for the leave and when those forms need to be returned.
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?
- Who is responsible for paying health insurance premiums during the 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?
For instance, if your church allows employees to use their PTO hours for maternity leave, explain how that process works and what the employee needs to do to access those paid hours.
Also, explain how the unpaid leave will work and what out-of-pocket (if any) expenses the employee may have to (for instance) pay health insurance premiums while they are out.
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 okay to leave undone, but designate someone to do those must-do job responsibilities.
Ask the departing employee to create detailed instructions with her own FAQs to answer any questions a substitute would ask.
For instance, ask her to create a sheet with all login information, main contact information, and the location of necessary supplies, equipment, or documents. This list might also include due dates for projects or weekly job assignments.
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 new Dads. Include paternity leave in your FMLA policy and create the same process and steps for the Dads.
If you allow Mom’s to use their PTO benefits for maternity leave, consider allowing Dad’s the same benefit for paternity leave. Help these new fathers feel as much support as the moms.
6. Include Adoptive Parents
Don’t forget about those couples who adopt babies.
These new parents should be allowed the same flexibility and to use these new parent benefits.
My son adopted a baby and had 8 hours to make it to an out-of-state hospital. The call was unexpected, and he and his wife had to get in the car and go with little warning.
Flexibility at work is crucial for adoptive parents who don’t always know when a baby is coming.
While these situations are unusual, they do happen.
So, if an employee has begun an adoption process, help them access benefits and prepare for leave.
New Babies Are Amazing
Those of us who have had the honor of raising children understand the importance of supporting young families.
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?
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