What Your Maternity/Paternity Leave Policy Says to Your Employees
As a somewhat seasoned female in my career, I have had the privilege to work at several different companies. Companies have different policies for their employees. Some of the policies protect the company, some protect the employees, some protect their investors, some protect their stock holders, and the list goes on. When I made a career change, I paid special attention how policies at the companies I was looking into helped their employees, and which policies were ultimately the benefit to the company (and is it possible for these two to merge into one?). In August 2016 I was hired as a Program Manager over software integrations at Weave Communications. One thing Weave did not have when I started was any kind of maternity/paternity leave. At the time when I got hired, I was not concerned by this as Weave was still a small company, but they were growing quickly. All of their other policies were amazing: unlimited PTO, great work environment, flexible hours, etc.
Fast forward three years, and I was finding myself in a very different life situation. I was remarried and we were looking to expand our family. At the time, the maternity policy we had was lackluster at best. I knew though that the executives at the company really cared about their employees and they would listen to us when we had concerns. One day when I found some time, I decided I was going to write up a proposal to change the policy. I was gathering data and facts from papers written and articles from trusted news organizations about the financial benefits that were gained by a company by having a good maternity/paternity policy. While I was fervently researching and writing things down, I had to take a break for our monthly company meeting. And lo and behold, our new maternity/policy was announced! (Side note: This story is 100% true. I was literally writing up my proposal right before this meeting. The versioning in my Google docs can even prove it). To read more about the details of the policy, a great news article was written about us.
Why have a maternity/paternity policy?
This is a great question to ask. I have had this conversation, overheard this conversation, read comments from social media (bad idea by the way) about maternity/paternity leave and why should they even exist. Here are some common questions/quotes I have heard over the years why a company should not have a policy (this is outside of the federal FMLA policy that exists here in the USA):
- Why should your company be responsible to pay for you when you made the decision to get pregnant and have a baby?
- Isn’t that your responsibility to plan for and take care of that yourself?
- Why should I have to pay for you to take a vacation? (this person has obviously never birthed a baby, or taken care of a newborn, and yes this includes parents (men) who have children that I have heard this from)
- If you choose to have children, you shouldn’t be working outside the home (for females)
Now sure, when you get down to the meat of it, I can see the validity to some of these comments in theory. We live in a free market society, and if you are more right leaning, some of these comments do make more sense. But this begs the question then, in what circumstances are you okay as a company in paying for your employees to take “time off”? What if you get in a bad car accident and need time to recover? Now you could argue, you didn’t choose to get into a car accident like you choose to have a baby. I could counter this with, getting into a car everyday, you are risking everyday getting into a car accident.
I think though when you really get down to it, it comes down to two factors:
- Financial: It costs money to have an employee take time off. What are the costs associated with potentially finding, hiring, training a replacement? What are the associated costs for an employee to take time off when having a baby
- Company culture/perception: What is the culture like at your company? Does the executive team cultivate a culture of caring at your office? How are executive seen by employees with the policies that they create? Does your company care what it’s employees, the media, etc think of it?
My thoughts and reflections on Weave Communications’ maternity policy
To start off, I must state these are my own thoughts and feeling after taking full advantage of Weave’s maternity policy. This is only about the maternity policy, and not the paternity policy. I did in fact have a baby, this beautiful baby:
I did enjoy all of the Weave maternity benefits. I also came back to my previous job and was welcomed back with open arms.
The actual time away from work
I think I may be one of those rare breeds who actually enjoys their job. 99% of the time I am excited to come to work. I honestly love what I do, love those who I work with, and love dealing with the daily challenges it brings. Weave’s policy is 12 weeks full pay time off. When I had my first son, the time off at the company I was at was 16 weeks. I can honestly say though, after 12 weeks of time off with him, I felt like I could have gone back if I needed too.
With the 12 weeks I had off, I still stay connected with my job. I was on Slack and email almost everyday. Many times out of boredom, sitting at home nursing a baby almost 24/7. It was fun to see what was going on, or just to get a general feel the state of my team and the company. I never felt obligated to do anything. I did have some people reach out to me. I responded to some, ignored others as I saw fit.
The other perks
Diapers (free diapers for a year): This has been pretty sweet. Mainly for two reasons (besides the obvious cost savings).
- Not having to remember to buy diapers at the store or order them from Amazon
- Our company provides Honest diapers/wipes bundles, and the prints you can choose from are quite darling. It is fun to pick out the styles you want every month.
Many people ask if the bundles really last a month, and that is a hard YES. In fact, we are swimming in diapers, and we change diapers all day long.
Cleanings (6 cleanings, 2 hours each): At first, I was not too excited about this. At the time we had our son, we were preparing to move into a new home and we had company staying with us to help. I was stressed from having a baby, packing, and just the logistics of moving. I did not start using it until we moved into our new home about a month after the baby was born. My expectations were not high as they used a well known nationwide maid service. Well I think we lucked out because we had the same cleaning lady every time and she was so wonderful. She knew exactly what we wanted and she just came and did her thing an left. After it was over, I may or may not have cleaned my bathroom for over a month as I was mourning having to clean my own house.
Food cash card (meals twice a week for 6 weeks): now besides the paid time off work, this was probably the best perk. Doordash is a god send after you had a baby and you don’t want to leave your house. We may have become addicted to food delivery.
The return to work
This was seamless! I did come into work about a month before I was supposed to return to talk to my managers about a possible flexible work arrangement. The conversation went extremely well and they were able to accomodate what I had requested. I have a very supportive and wonderful husband who has also made the transition back to work very easy for me and our family.
What the maternity policy REALLY meant to me in the end
I think the thought probably crosses the mind of every female who decides to have a child and is working, “How will this affect my career? What will my bosses think when I am taking time off?” This thought crossed my mind a lot as I was pregnant. Especially since this was such a new policy, I was nervous about how my managers would see it. In my experience, most people are very support of maternity/paternity leave. But what I really loved and saw from Brandon and the executive team at Weave was that they cared about the well being of their employees. They cared enough to pay them while they rested and recovered from having a child. They cared enough to pay the spouses/partners to take care of the mothers of their children who just gave birth. They were not legally obligated to do this. They were not convinced or manipulated to make this policy. They, in fact, truly care about their employees. For me, knowing during this time off that my position and career at Weave was not in jeopardy was not only a huge sigh of relief, but it made me respect the company even more that everything was not going to disappear just because I decided to have a child.
Weave’s core values creative, caring and hungry. These values were not created on a whim and they are not just an ideal we look to achieve. Weave truly does care about their employees and I have seen it first hand.