Paid Leave Is A Competitive Advantage For Small Businesses
The employment rate is the lowest it's been in decades so expect the competition for talent to heat up. With a little ingenuity, even smaller firms can get an edge.
While they may not be able to afford the health insurance and retirement plans that attract some people to larger companies, they can and do provide something just as valuable — paid leave.
For many employees, health insurance and retirement plans may not be a top priority. Think mothers who want to return to the workforce or want to stay in the workforce or baby boomers who want part-time work. For these people and others, paid leave and flexibility matter. By understanding what current and prospective employees want and need, you can tailor a benefits package to them. These benefits can give you the edge in attracting new employees and increase employee satisfaction, loyalty and retention.
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In other countries, the national government provides support for paid leave. According to a poll commissioned by Center for American Progress and Small Business Majority, 70% of small-business owners supporting federal paid-leave program and 42% believing establishing such a program is very important. Yet, the United States does not have a federal program. With the exception of a few states and cities, like it or not, in the United States, “the onus is on the businesses to figure out a solution to paid leave,” said Heather Whaling, president at Geben Communication, a PR firm based in Columbus, Ohio.
She is a vocal advocate for paid parental leave and developed a crowdsourced resource for companies wanting to #RewriteTheRules by providing paid leave. Companies with policies are encouraged to add theirs to the database so they can inspire others and provide practical insights into how they did it.
Women entrepreneurs especially ought to step up. While it’s an advantage for their businesses, it’s also an opportunity to level the playing field for women like them, who face difficult child-rearing or caretaking choices that men don’t.
Of course, paid leave isn’t just for women-owned employer firms. Because it is important that the business owner legitimizes taking paid leave and modeling doing so, this year’s example is a male entrepreneur. Tristan Walker of Walker & Company, which makes health and beauty simple for people of color, took 2 to 3 months off shortly after the launch of his company when his son was born. “I needed to reinforce that everyone needs this time and that they do so without worrying about it.” Other examples are Whaling and Becca Apfelstadt of treetree.
Interestingly, firms that have between 10 and 19 employees are showing how to provide paid leave benefits. They are more likely than those with 20 to 249 employees to provide paid time off, including vacation and maternity leave, according to Employee Compensation research by NIFB Research Foundation. This study also finds that benefit packages are a tactic smaller firms can use to compete with larger ones in attracting and retaining talent.
Paid leave isn’t just important for parents with young children. It’s also important for people who have responsibility for taking care of someone who is sick or elderly or if they have a serious health issue. Only 15% of workers in the United States have access to paid family leave through their employers, according to the National Partnership for Women & Families.
Paid leave isn’t the only benefit that small businesses can provide. They can also provide flexible schedules that allow an employee to start early or sign off in the middle of the day to pick kids up and come back to work after, mentioned Whaling. For valued employees who don’t want to return to working full time, she allows them to work part-time. Whaling also allows employees to work from home.
How will you use flexibility to attract and retain talent for your small business?