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Ideas on how to structure paid maternity leave

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  • Ideas on how to structure paid maternity leave

    Our practice doesn’t currently offer paid maternity leave.  I would like to offer this as a benefit for an employee who has been with us for several years.

    Is there anyway to structure this in such a way to protect myself from an employee earning 6-12 weeks of paid maternity leave and then quitting right before returning to work?

    For example, is there some way to set this up as an employee advance that is paid back with time worked after maternity leave?

    Is it unreasonable to offer paid maternity leave and require the employee to return to work for a minimum period of time after receiving this benefit?


  • #2
    I believe when I worked for a large corporation that there was a provision that an employee had to return from maternity leave in order to have health benefits covered during the leave, but the leave itself was covered regardless. I'm not sure on the details, but I think you had to just return and that was it, no specific time period comes to mind. It was also technically short-term disability, not specifically maternity leave, so this would have applied to any employee out for a medical reason. As an employee, we did pay a certain amount of $$/month for short term disability, but I'm sure the company was kicking in a ton. There were lots of stories of people changing their minds and giving notice as soon as they returned.

    I'd be wary of structuring it so the employee has to stay a significant amount of time afterwards. Babies/pregnancy have too many risks to do that and hope it works out ok. What if baby is born 6 weeks early, employee burns her 6 weeks with a preemie in the NICU and is expected to return to work with essentially a newborn baby at home (that cannot be put in daycare)? (Actual situation one of my friends was in). Babies get sick, have disorders. Moms don't recover well or end up dealing with stuff like PPD. Any of that could change her plans even if she wants to return ASAP.

    At that point can you really stop her from leaving? And do you want to make it financially onerous for her during this time by requiring some sort of payback? People often change their minds about staying home (and not staying home!!) once the baby has arrived, too--especially if it is the first!

    As far as legal ramifications, I have no idea.


    • #3
      "Is it unreasonable to offer paid maternity leave and require the employee to return to work for a minimum period of time after receiving this benefit?"

      Yes. Sounds like the employee has already earned the leave, whether it not they come back to work for a nominal amount of time.

      I applaud you for trying to create a new leave policy. I would make it inclusive of the father as well.

      Have you asked what the intent of the employee is?


      • #4
        Most policies you need to work someplace for a year or some other period before you are eligible to get paid leave.


        Golden handcuffs work for docs because no one feels bad for us if we are forced to work to keep paying for our mcmansion but you will not get favorable public opinion dragging a new mother back to work if she decides not too.


        • #5
          Image result for the office cat maternity


          • #6
            Two points of view:
            a) payments are structured completely under a loan agreement, all at once or periodic.
            b) repayments are loan forgiveness “earned” over period of time or incrementally.
            Structure it just like a signing bonus. Cash advanced for the purpose of future employment.
            •Maternity Leave
            Separate benefit given as a supplement to pay as it is earned. Employment laws may or may not apply. Not sure clawback frames it the best.

            My suggestion would be to take the loan approach with forgiveness. It’s similar to “personal days off”. Makes no difference the reason, x number of days, period. A valuable employee that you want to return to work. It’s a discretionary bonus with forgiveness. It will be appreciated. You also have the ability to extend terms or write it off if you do desire.