The USA is the only country that doesn’t guarantee paid maternity leave for mothers, but an increasing number of companies now recognize the importance of addressing this. Regardless of whether paid leave is offered, businesses must be prepared for the possibility that members of staff may require leave when they are expecting a child, and a plan must be in place to ensure business continuity during this time.
Through careful planning and management of staff, it’s possible for businesses to maintain continuity for as long as necessary when a valued employee is away from work on maternity or paternity leave.
Offering Remote and Flexible Work
When organizations encourage an open dialogue with employees, agreements can be made that will allow business to continue as usual, despite staff absence. Companies have the option of offering flexible hours and remote working, which will allow an employee to be away from the office engaging in their duties as a new parent while continuing to work. This is particularly significant for new fathers, who may benefit from paternity leave, but who may also be able to work around their baby. By allowing them to take home essential equipment and ensuring regular remote briefings, companies will enable them to fullfil their duties from afar.
This option may also appeal to some mothers, particularly those who may be forced to extend their maternity leave either before or after the birth due to unforeseen complications. It’s important for employers to be sensitive to the needs of expectant mothers, and recognize that not all eventualities can be planned for. For example, if a pregnant woman develops a complication like gestational diabetes, she may be better positioned to manage her blood sugar levels and ease her symptoms at home, despite not yet being ready to begin her maternity leave. By offering her the option to work remotely, a business can ensure continuity while also protecting the health and well-being of the employee.
Covering Work Internally
If businesses are able to equip their employees with regular training and ensure that knowledge of essential roles and duties is held by everyone, it may be possible to cover staff absence internally. Essential duties can be spread amongst existing employees to allow business continuity without extra cost. However, organizations choosing to explore this route should be mindful of the well-being of their staff, and ensure that no individual is given an unrealistic workload or feels undue pressure during the period of leave being covered. Covering work internally is only a realistic option if the business has an ethos of sharing roles and responsibilities within the company, and regularly updates the training of staff so that they are able to absorb additional duties in the event of an emergency.