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MANAGING STAFF

Are you violating state “time off” requirements for employees who are parents?

Although back-to-school season rolls around every year, it always seems to bring a level of stress for working parents. And is it any wonder?

A new schedule and new commitments require finding ways to meet all the demands of daily life. For households with two working parents, it can be extremely difficult; and for single-parent households, even more so.

It’s easy for employers and managers to dismiss the issue as “not my problem,” but, in reality, it is your problem. Like it or not, the line between personal and professional life got obliterated years ago. Today, if you want to keep your staff engaged – indeed, keep them working for you at all – you have to make allowances for their family obligations.

And there is yet another reason for employers to accommodate these employees: Some states require that you provide time off for parents who want to participate in their children’s educational activities.

What the law requires

Information compiled by the National Council of State Legislatures (NCSL) finds that few states mandate time off for parents to attend school-related activities. The following table shows states with laws on the books as of December 2013.

State Family Medical Leave and Parental Leave Laws

Source: National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), as of December 2013.

Keep in mind that although your state may not be among those listed, your practice may soon have legal obligations. This is a hot-button issue, and the legal landscape keeps changing. As such, you’ll want to keep an eye out for new legislation that has the potential to affect your practice. In New Jersey and Hawaii, for example, legislation has been introduced in 2014 to include time off for school activities.

And don’t shrug off employer size limitations. In Vermont, for example, only employers with 10 or more workers are affected by the law; so if your practice has only six employees, you might assume the law doesn’t apply to you. But you would only be partially correct.

Your practice is competing with larger practices and other businesses that offer the benefit. Therefore, it is in your best interest to do the same.

What employees want

Whether it’s time off to attend school activities or time off to care for a sick child, employees who are parents want the organizations for which they work to understand and accommodate their needs.

For managers who make the effort, the rewards often outweigh any inconveniences. Employees tend to show appreciation and loyalty, and a reciprocal willingness to accommodate the practice, by staying late, filling in for other staffers, and so forth.

Still, providing employees who are parents with flexibility comes with challenges – including dealing with the perception of employees without children, who may feel they don’t rate equal consideration.

Making it work

Therefore, when implementing policies, whether mandated by law or otherwise, it’s helpful to put a “family friendly” spin on any accommodations the practice provides. For example, the practice may indicate it provides employees with time off to attend school-related activities of family members.

As with other policies, you’ll want to make sure you cover all the bases, including how much advance notice is preferred or required.

With a little planning and attention to detail, you can accommodate employees who are parents, as well as other employees who want to support young family members, while still running an efficient office.

This kind of accommodation will make a difference in the lives of your staff, and it will provide support for young people – who, incidentally, are the future workforce.

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