Maternity leave is a hotly contested topic among labor lawyers, business owners and mothers-to-be. A business doesn’t technically have to offer paid leave to a mother or father-to-be – not in the least, and many businesses do not. But there are a number of reasons why a business might or might not offer paid leave and the circumstances are disparate and range from the size of the business, the income of the employee, and even how many employees work for a certain company. If you are a business owner or manager, here are some things to consider when you are determining whether or not to offer employees paid maternity leave.

First off, there are the laws – if you break them you might only have to pay a fine or get a slap on the wrist – but if you are the owner of a company with over 50 employees working at offices within a 75 mile radius you must offer paid maternity or paternity leave – as stated by federal labor laws. In addition, if you have worked for an employer for up to 12 months and 1,250 hours you are entitled to paid leave. You are also entitled if you work for a government agency. However, these are just preliminary laws and aren’t enforceable to any extent beyond a warning and perhaps a few harsh looks, although your business could also get sued in civil court.

Yet, there are also the ethical circumstances to consider. Sure, there are very loose laws governing worker’s rights to take paid time off to care for their child in the first couple of months of its life. Other countries have extensive paid labor and maternity leave, because doctors and psychologists say that it is critical for a child in the first months of its life to always be with both the mother and the father. Moreover, labor is an intensive process and then there are the countless sleepless nights after the baby is born. There are also the miscellaneous considerations, like baby names, whether or not to donate cord blood to a California cryobank, and making sure there are lots of diapers on hand.

When it comes down to it, the only moral thing to do is to offer your employees paid time off if they are expecting a child – both the mother and father. Not only is this good karma for your company, but also it’s just good business. If your employees are your lifeblood then you need to do what you can to make sure their employment is secured – even when they are sick, expecting or want to go on vacation. The last thing you want is a worried mother and father nervously checking the clock all day long instead of getting anything done.

Lastly, there are the rare exceptions. There are some laws that state that if the employee makes a certain amount of money per month or is a high earner that they wouldn’t need paid time off. Time off sure, but not salaried. Even then, it might just be the ethical thing to do.

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