Home Business Insights Family Leave: More Small Employers Want to Support New Parents

Family Leave: More Small Employers Want to Support New Parents

by Ivy Lamb

The majority of small business owners do not offer paid family leave, but would consider doing so if they had government support.

Paid leave for working parents is gaining more attention than ever before. For the first time, both major party presidential candidates included subsidized family leave in their platforms. A new federal family leave policy could mean big changes for small business.

Only 31% of small business owners currently offer paid maternity/paternity benefits to their employees, according to a new Manta poll.Only 31% of small business owners currently offer paid maternity/paternity benefits to their employees, according to a new Manta poll.

The Family & Medical Leave Act guarantees workers up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a new baby or recover from a serious illness, but the law applies only to companies with 50 or more employees.

Neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump included a small business exemption in their family leave proposals.

Brian Greenspan understands the challenge small business owners face. Until recently, his online furniture retailer InMod didn’t have an official family leave policy for its 10 employees. But with two employees, a man and a woman, expecting a baby soon, he knew he needed to do something.

“We’re trying to figure out the best thing to do,” he said. “Right now, we think for both employees, if they take six weeks off, we’ll pay them for half of that time.”

Greenspan said it’s hard for a small business with few resources and personnel to pick up the slack when an employee is out for an extended period. On the other hand, he believes that providing leave is the right thing to do.

“My wife just had a baby, and I see how important that time is,” he said. “It’s a hard balance. Government subsidies would be hugely helpful.”

 Manta's poll showed that 86% of small business owners are ready to offer paid family leave if the benefit was subsidized by the federal government. Greenspan isn’t alone in supporting government-subsidized family leave. Manta’s poll showed that 86% of small business owners are ready to offer paid family leave if the benefit was subsidized by the federal government. The majority preferred a policy of six weeks or less.

Heather Whaling, founder and CEO of Geben Communications, is excited to see paid family leave enter the national debate. She supports a national paid family leave policy. Her own experience as a working mother informed her small company’s family leave policy.

“I had a son three years ago, and he was in the NICU for 13 days,” she said. “During that time, I was able to fully focus on getting him healthy and getting myself healthy. It made me realize what an additional layer of stress it would add not to have job stability or financial stability during that time.”

After researching and assessing what she could realistically afford to offer, she settled on 10 weeks off for new moms and dads. The leave is 100% paid, and employees get an additional two weeks “transition time” that allows them to ease back into work.

The majority preferred a policy of six weeks or less.Whaling’s family leave policy reflects her company’s progressive values, but she also sees good business sense in it.

“If I want to recruit and retain top talent, then I need to make it a place they want to work and acknowledge they have families and lives outside the office,” she said.

Greenspan and Whaling are among the minority of small business owners who offer paid family leave. But many small business owners are open to offering paid leave with government assistance—at least in theory.

According to Manta’s poll, 59% of small business owners don’t support either presidential candidate’s subsidized leave proposal.

Voters may not agree on the details, but the issue isn’t likely to disappear anytime soon. Women make up nearly half of today’s labor force, and are increasingly family breadwinners, according to a 2014 White House report. In addition, fathers have started taking on more caregiving tasks. Lawmakers and business owners alike will have to decide how to adapt to the changing parental needs of the American workforce.

Poll methodology: Between 9/19 – 9/21/16, Manta surveyed 601 small business owners via on-site poll. The margin of error is +/- 4.0 percentage points with a 95% confidence.

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