How to make paid sick and parental leave work for your operation

Published in FSD Update

benefits graphic

So-called fringe benefits such as paid sick and parental leave are anything but fringe in 2017. This year, a flurry of jurisdictions are enacting medical and family leave laws. Arizona, Washington, Vermont, Minneapolis and Chicago will all require employers to offer paid sick leave to workers, and the Society for Human Resources Management predicts that paid parental leave regulations like those approved in Washington, D.C., and New York state last year will continue to crop up on the local level.

At Penn-Harris-Madison School Corp. in Mishawaka, Ind., the food services department’s leave policies are one of its best recruitment tools, says Director Jill Riggs. Here are three stealable ways she provides benefits that help attract talent and reduce turnover.

Extend job security

Many foodservice employees at Penn-Harris-Madison do not work enough hours to qualify for the 12 weeks of unpaid leave guaranteed under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act. But those employees are allowed to take parental or medical leave and still have a job waiting for them, Riggs says. In fact, Penn-Harris-Madison’s policy goes even further, allowing employees (including part-timers) to take up to a full year off.  “Most people come back after they take that time,” Riggs says. “It helps us remain competitive, because not many other employers offer that benefit to part-time employees.”

Moreover, staff can take the time intermittently throughout the year. In addition, they can apply any paid time off they’ve accrued to the parental or medical leave; it never expires.

Don’t give it away all at once

When the department originally rolled out the benefits program, staff received 10 days paid leave on their first day. “We’d have relatively new hires run the days out, and then quit,” Riggs says. Now, employees earn one day each month, regardless of hours worked.

Ditch designated days

Instead of telling employees what to do with their hours, Penn-Harris-Madison allows foodservice employees to use their PTO on personal illness, family illness or personal business. Riggs says this system opens the job to more parents, who need the flexibility to care for their kids. 

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