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Paid Parental Leave: Should Small Businesses Try to Compete?

Lately there’s been so much buzz about paid parental leave in the press that you probably feel like your company is one of the few that isn’t offering this alluring benefit. The truth is, only 12% of private employers provide paid family leave. Most businesses, especially small ones, cannot and do not offer this expensive benefit. However, a good rule of thumb when it comes to employee benefits, in general, is to give until it hurts…a little.

David vs. Goliath: Can Small Businesses Compete?

The Obama Administration is making a big push for private companies to provide paid leave to their employees, but this doesn’t make sense for every company. It’s a win-win for established and successful companies like Facebook and Netflix — it helps them to attract top talent and build their reputations as great places to work, and they’ve got plenty of money to fund it! But for a brand-new family-owned bakery on Elm Street that’s barely making payroll, it can’t work. Let’s be realistic: the bakery is providing jobs to people who need to pay rent and buy groceries for their families — the last thing they need is for their employer to go out of business because it made poor financial decisions.

Is parental leave worthwhile for your small business?

Paid family and/or parental leave is a huge perk and very attractive to millennials who are beginning to put down roots and start families. However, not every Mom and Pop shop should feel like they have to offer paid parental leave in order to attract talent. One of the reasons your ideal candidate wants to work for your business is because it’s a small business — and hopefully, that candidate is smart enough to understand that he or she cannot expect this kind of extravagant benefit from a smaller enterprise. However, that’s not to say that you shouldn’t look for some middle ground in which to give employees added flexibility. Providing even a small benefit that you’re not required to will give you a huge bang for your employee-satisfaction buck.

Give a Little

I love telling employees that, even though it is not required to (we have less than 50 employees) Aegistech complies with the Family and Medical Leave Act and offers 12 weeks of unpaid leave to employees caring for a sick family member, or for the birth or adoption of a child. The fact that they are able to take this time away from work without having to worry about losing their jobs is a huge relief. And while we would love nothing more than to pay them during that time, they understand that the company has to do well financially in order for our jobs to exist, so we cannot offer all the benefits we’d like to.

Some other low-cost extras that are bound to put a smile on employees’ faces:

  1. Flex-time and/or telecommuting. This is probably one of the most sought-after benefits by all employees today, and if you are able to provide it, you should. It will not only make your employees happy, it can decrease the company’s expenses on things such as rent and equipment.
  2. A $50,000 life insurance policy can be had in New York for around $9 per month. It’s not something that’s going to break the bank, but your employees will greatly appreciate it – because they know you didn’t have to provide it!
  3. An annual $250 deposit into an HAS or FSA account. This small amount can cover a few co-pays or prescriptions!
  4. Vision insurance. It’s really inexpensive, especially when coupled with your Dental plan.
  5. Extra paid time off after a certain period of service (i.e., one extra day off per year after five years of service)
  6. Company discount.
  7. Social events. As much as people grumble and roll their eyes about Pizza Fridays or an Applebee’s Happy Hour, I don’t buy it. Who would rather spend the time working?
  8. Summer hours. Employees work an extra hour each day in exchange for every other Friday off — what do we care as long as the work gets done and our employees are happy?

Now we all know these small bonuses pale in comparison to paid family leave, but we can’t all work for huge companies like Microsoft and Amazon…but hey, some of us don’t want to!

Related article: How to Recruit, Hire, Motivate, Retain, and Reward Your Talent