In recognition of National Small Business Week, we’ve put together some tips to help your company grow. Read on to learn how you can make positive steps toward putting your small business in position to thrive.

You might be wondering if your business is required to offer paternity leave. The short answer? Maybe. If your company falls under the umbrella of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), eligible employees must be allowed to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid paternity leave within a year of the birth or adoption of a child. The FMLA set guidelines for businesses that include the following key definitions:

  • An eligible employee is defined as one who has been in your employment for a minimum of one year and works a regular workweek (defined as 24 hours by the act).
  • The FMLA applies to both maternity and paternity leave — both unpaid.
  • Unpaid parental leave must be taken in one continuous block of time.

As a business owner, it’s important to understand that you can’t offer unpaid maternity leave and not unpaid paternity leave. In the eyes of the law, they are one and the same and referred to collectively as “parental leave.” Unfortunately, many fathers-to-be are either unaware unpaid leave is available to them or feel that taking time away from work may make an unfavorable impression on employers.

Benefits of Offering Paternity Leave

By offering expanded parental leave benefits, you may find it’s actually a win-win situation for everyone, and this especially holds true for new dads and moms. According to research from the U.S. Department of Labor, providing parental and medical leave benefits is proven to positively impact employees’ lives while not placing any unnecessary burdens on employers. You’re offering a benefit that improves employee retention and lowers stress by giving them time off to bond with their new child. Your business could even find ways to improve while your employee is on leave — focus on training other workers to take on new responsibilities and train to fill in for the new parent.

Benefits of Paid Paternity Leave

If you’re an employer that’s governed by the FMLA, offering paid parental leave may not be something that you’ve previously considered, as many business owners believe the costs of paid leave outweigh the benefits. However, many companies are finding there are enormous benefits in offering either full or partially paid leave for new parents, such as:

  • A bargaining tool to attract and retain top-quality talent.
  • Increased likelihood that the employee will return to the workforce.
  • An increased sense of employee loyalty in exchange for employer flexibility and compassion.

Putting Together Your Plan

When creating your specific benefit plan for expanded parental leave, be sure to let your employees know about it. Encourage them to discuss and use the benefit, and give them a chance to voice any concerns they may have. Additionally, consider supplementing your plan with expanded options, such as flexible work schedules or the ability to work from home.

In addition, ensure both mothers and fathers are included in your parental leave plan. Focus on creating a plan with the whole family in mind, refer to leave as “parental leave” and be sure that the fathers-to-be feel this plan was created as much for them as for the new mothers.

As you build up your plan, keep in mind that, while the FMLA is applicable to all qualifying businesses in the United States, each state may or may not have additional laws that apply to your business. To find out any that apply to your state, see the National Conference of State Legislatures’ information on employee leave.

Creating and maintaining a familycentric work environment doesn’t have to end with initial parental leave. Promote a continued commitment by keeping parental needs in mind, and take some time to research the innovative parental leave benefits other companies have implemented to see what might work for you and your employees.

This content is provided solely for informational purposes. It is not intended as and does not constitute legal advice. The information contained herein should not be relied upon or used as a substitute for consultation with legal, accounting, tax and/or other professional advisers.

Allison Hutton is an experienced writer, editor, communications professional, researcher and social media consultant. During her more than 15 years of communications and writing experience, Allison has worked with a variety of clients, from small-business owners to Fortune 500 companies. She has an M.S. in entertainment business, a B.A. in communication and lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with her husband and four children.