One of your employees has just told you her good news — she’s expecting! But after you share congratulations, you start to wonder how you’re going manage without her for up to a year. Don’t push the panic button just yet. If you prepare for your employees’ maternity leave, then you can avoid your own labor pains. Here are some tips.
1 Get informed
Learn about maternity leave benefits at HRDC’s Employment Insurance benefits page. For example, you will be responsible for providing your employee with a Record of Employment within five days of the last day for which she was paid. Additionally, every province has an Employment Standards Act, which outlines employers and employees rights and obligations. Do a search online for the Employment Standards Act in your province. For example, you’ll find Ontario’s here and B.C.’s here.
2 Define a company policy
If you don’t have a company policy on maternity leave in place, now is the time to establish one. Will your company top up maternity benefits? “Topping up has become very popular in Quebec and it’s often used as an incentive when hiring employees,” says Nora Spinks, president of Work-Life Harmony Enterprises, an international consulting, training and research firm based in Toronto. Also, you could consider offering an employee assistance program, which, for example, would help new moms locate childcare resources.
3 Create a plan with the staff member
Figure out what projects will be completed before the leave and how the work will be deployed while the employee is gone. Will you hire a temporary replacement? Will a co-worker take on some duties? This might be an excellent opportunity for cross-training within the organization. Ask your employee to create a job manual that will help the person stepping into her job. Arrange some crossover time, so the employee can train her temporary replacement and introduce him or her to clients and co-workers. Also, discuss what kind of contact, if any, the employee would like to have while on leave. Can you phone her with questions? If so, how frequently and under what circumstances? “The clearer everyone is about expectations,” says Spinks, “the smoother the leave will be.”
4 Hire the temporary replacement like you’re hiring a permanent employee
In your anxiety to fill the gap, you might be tempted to hire the first candidate you see. Avoid this urge — a year will feel like a lifetime if you’ve got the wrong person in the job. Besides, if your company is growing, you might be able to create a new position and keep that person within the organization when your employee returns. Should you involve your pregnant employee in the job search? It depends. While no one knows the job better than she does, she may find hiring a replacement threatening or may not have good hiring skills. Consider an employee’s involvement in hiring on a case-by-case basis.
5 Negotiate a smooth return to work
Discuss the return to work before the scheduled day. Will the employee jump back into working full time or perhaps work half-days for the first week or two? “We recommend a phase back,” says Spinks. “Remember, the employee will need to make adjustments at home and will be juggling work and a baby.”
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© 2003 Deena Waisberg