Why Your Maternity & Paternity Leave Policies Are A Hit & A Miss: Mets Fans Teach Law Firms About Priorities

This April, many Mets baseball fans were more up in arms about paternity leave than the opening day game. It turns out time off for fathers is as much as a hotbed issue for Americans as batting average and runs scored—which is saying a lot for the country’s number one patriotic sport.

In case you were watching the Mets get slaughtered by the Nationals that day, here’s what happened: Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy decided he would take his contractually guaranteed three days of paternity leave to spend time with his wife, Victoria, and newborn baby, born from cesarean section. This meant Murphy missed the season opener and one other game, spurring insensitive comments from two sports radio hosts, Mike Francesa and Boomer Esiason.

Among the worst offenders, Esiason said (via Slate), “Quite frankly, I would’ve said, ‘C-section before the season starts. I need to be at opening day.”

Esiason would go on to apologize to the many listeners appalled at his lack of taste or common sense (a healthy baby trumps a coach’s first-choice lineup). But, it reminded Americans of the sad fact that dads, by law, are just not prioritized in parenthood.

Outside Father’s Day and the FMLA, dads just can’t catch a break.

This week, Obama spoke out in favor of paid leave for parents. He cited the fact that the United States is the only nation in the industrialized world without paid maternity leave—something Obama is eager to change.

On Monday, at the White House Summit on Working Families, Obama said, “There is only one developed country in the world that does not offer paid maternity leave, and that is us.”

“And that is not the list you want to be on, on your lonesome.”

Neither is the list for professional sports stars taking advantage of time off. Whereas the Mets’ Murphy was allowed through the Major League Baseball (MLB)’s collective bargaining agreement in 2011 to take up to three days of paternity league, no other professional sports organization allows the same privilege.

The NBA and the NFL have no such agreement, and players who deign to spend time with newborn sons and daughters are often chastised by fans and authorities (Former NFL player Brendon Ayanbadejo implied recently that he believes he was traded for taking 36 hours of paternity leave, reports Slate).

Nevertheless, although businesses may loathe paid leave, Americans as a unified culture and a workforce do not. And they seem willing to speak out against companies with bad policies. A backlash that forces men like Esiason, radio host, to formally apologize.

Even in the U.S., which rewards the super-macho all-American man, people prefer the stable atomic family to wealth or recreation. Forbes staff admit that alternative work schedules are a must for entrepreneurs and today’s businesses.

“Telecommuting is not the future, it is now,” writes Karsten Strauss for Forbes.

“Across the board, telecommuting increased over 80% since 2005. Over 3.3 million people in the U.S. do it (and that’s not including the self-employed).”

So how can your firm handle changes better than the MLB?

Well, according to SHRM’s FMLA survey, tracking and administering intermittent FMLA leave was identified as the most difficult activity by 80 percent of responding organizations. In fact, some of the most frequently voiced issues were about the administration and abuse of the FMLA, particularly with respect to intermittent leave.

FMLA itself is confusing and difficult to interpret, especially following the recent sweeping changes to the law. Even seasoned HR professionals have difficulty figuring out how to calculate intermittent leaves, how to decide when the 12-month calendar begins, and how to determine if the leave request is actually legitimate.

So, start by reading The Center For Competitive Management (C4CM)’s guide, Managing Intermittent FMLA Leave, a no-fluff, plain-English report that will guide you through this intricate law. Jammed packed with compliance guidelines, this comprehensive, 101 page guide provides easy-to-understand FMLA guidance. Available here.

Next, create a flexible workplace for your law firm professionals valuing (and needing) time with their families.

Learn about the myriad benefits for the employee and employer, as well as strategies for implementation in C4CM’s training guide, Creating the Flexible Workplace. Available here.

Creating a flexible workplace that’s accommodating for moms and dads will lower costs associated with employee absenteeism and improve staff retention. It will decrease healthcare utilization costs and enhance your firm’s reputation as an employer of choice.

Don’t think twice, swing. It’s a homerun.

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