The pandemic baby boom is in full swing! We’re seeing an increase in questions related to pregnancy and maternity leave in HR Base Camp and the HR Solution Center. Here our top 3 HR Q&As from the past week:
- What do you do when an employee is unclear on when they will return from maternity (or any other type of) leave?
- Do you have to offer PTO to a new employee after they give birth?
- Should you include vaccination and masking requirements in a job ad?
What do you do when an employee is unclear on when they will return from maternity (or any other type of) leave?
An employee at a dental practice was unclear on how long she would need to be away from work after giving birth. The employer was curious about how to get a concrete return-to-work date from the employee.
Answer: This issue highlights the need for a well-written and customized-for-you temporary medical leave policy that complies with state, federal, and local laws. Similar policies should also be in place to address requests for military leave, personal leave, bereavement leave, and any other type of leave you should be prepared to offer when a request comes in.
We like to include “maternity leave” as a subset of medical leave in every customized CEDR employee handbook. And, in our support model, we provide the documents and guidance you need to facilitate discussions with your employee that would make dealing with this problem a little easier – or even prevent it from coming up in the first place!
The best part about having this sort of policy in place before an employee makes a leave of absence request is that the employee and manager know the limits on time away, what they must do, and when they must do it before a leave of absence begins. The policy also provides a platform and way for you and the employee to interact during the pregnancy and while they are out to discuss what she is thinking.
FYI – most practices give eight weeks of unpaid time off for maternity leave. And you should know that you may need to accommodate a leave extension for medically supported reasons. Regardless of how much time off you provide for leave, whenever an employee makes a leave of absence request it’s important to get it in writing, including the expected date of return. Again, in the CEDR model, she would have been asked to give you these details in writing before her leave of absence began. We would also help you document things like her letting you know she is unsure about her expected return date and guide you on how to respectfully communicate with her in ways that would help you both get a good resolution. The process for cleaning this up requires a bit of finesse and honest communication.
Click here for a free Leave of Absence Request Form you can use for documentation purposes.
To learn more about how CEDR can help solve and prevent these types of problems proactively, click here to learn more about our custom employee handbooks or click here to learn more about our 1-on-1 problem solving process with HR experts.
Do you have to offer PTO to a new team member after they give birth?
A practice owner was considering hiring a front desk applicant who was pregnant. They were unclear on whether or not they needed to provide any PTO in addition to the standard benefits they offer all employees when that employee goes on maternity leave.
Answer: As with the previous question about maternity leave, the answer to this question comes back to the need to have a custom, compliant employee handbook policy in place that lays out the expectations and protocols for addressing any type of leave that might come up at your practice, including maternity leave. Not only will this make it easy for your employees to understand what needs to happen in order to prepare for leave, but these policies also serve as a great reference for managers and business owners who are unclear about how to address these types of issues when they come up. Nobody should ever expect to have their entire employee handbook memorized, but it can be immensely helpful to know that you’ve legally compliant information in an easily accessible location for when you need it!
Regarding the legal requirements of PTO and maternity leave, you are not typically required to provide paid time off during maternity leave aside from any standard earned benefits provided by your practice. Some states do have additional benefits that pregnant employees can apply for, however, so it’s important to be clear on the laws in your state and how they apply to your business when questions about maternity leave come up. This is one more reason why we always recommend that employers work directly with a qualified HR professional when questions about leave come up at your business.
In addition to drawing attention to the need to have custom, compliant policies in place surrounding topics like leaves of absence, this question also highlights why it’s important for all employers to keep up with changing employment laws in their state, city, and county. Traditionally, employer policies and employment laws didn’t start allowing job protected leave until the employee had worked for at least a full year. A lot of states are currently chipping away at that requirement by passing laws protecting the right to take a medical leave regardless of someone’s length of employment.
CEDR Members are always kept up to date on law changes as they roll out, and CEDR employee handbooks are always updated to reflect those changes when they will affect your practice.
Can you include COVID vaccination and masking requirements in a job ad?
An employer was looking to hire a new front desk person and wanted to know if they could include the fact that COVID vaccination and masks were a requirement of the position in their job ad.
Answer: As you probably already know, whether or not you can require a COVID vaccine as a condition of employment varies from state to state. Some states have made vaccination mandatory in certain cases, whereas other states have forbidden employers from requiring COVID vaccines. So we should preface this by saying that, if you’re unclear on what the laws in your state have to say about this matter, it’s important to consult a qualified professional regarding the laws in your area before instituting a vaccine mandate for your business.
That said, if you are in a state that mandates vaccination, or one that allows you to require a vaccine as a condition of employment and you choose to do so, this requirement should be listed in the job ad.
However, you should avoid bringing vaccination status up during the interview process since it can elicit information about a disability or religious beliefs. It’s best to wait until you have selected a candidate to move forward and then present them with the mandate information. Remember that, even if you have a policy in place and there is a state mandate, you’re still required to provide accommodations for employees who qualify for a medical or religious exemption.
CEDR members can receive detailed guidance about how to implement mandatory vaccine policies, as well as custom memos for state specific mandates. If you’re interested in talking to someone about CEDR’s services, reach out to us here.