A Journey Through Paid Family Leave: Part 7
The HR Perspective
January 24, 2019
When an employee takes Paid Family Leave, human resources departments have a significant role to play in ensuring that the employee understands the policy and procedure (including completing and submitting paperwork) so they can easily take leave.
In this series, we’ve been following Stephanie, an employee at ShelterPoint and first-time mom, who has taken Paid Family Leave (PFL) to bond with her new baby (click here to start at the beginning of the story). In this installment, we reached out to Carmela, the VP of HR at ShelterPoint, for her perspective on Stephanie’s leave.
Carmela and Stephanie have a unique relationship. They’ve been working together since right after Stephanie got out of college. Since they began working together, Carmela has celebrated a number of—to put it in HR terms—Stephanie’s life events. She was there when Stephanie began work at ShelterPoint, when Stephanie got married, and now, when Steph had her first baby. “It’s been wonderful to see how Steph’s life has blossomed,” Carmela said. “When Stephanie told me she was pregnant, I was thrilled for her and Steve!”
Carmela, like most HR teams, already had a protocol in place for when an employee was ready to take maternity leave, which for maternity and bonding leave, includes setting two meetings to discuss all the details and make a leave plan with the employee. Before PFL, these meetings were primarily a matter of talking through NY statutory disability (DBL) and Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) along with ShelterPoint’s own internal employee policies. But in Stephanie’s case, this would be one of the first meetings Carmela would have for bonding leave since Paid Family Leave became live. So there were more pieces to line up and she had to update her plan to include PFL.
Stephanie had a lot of questions early on, and Carmela would research and answer them as they came up. One tool she finds especially helpful for the employee early on is ShelterPoint’s PFL benefit estimator tool. “I share this with all my HR buddies,” Carmela told us. “It helps the employee estimate how much PFL benefit they can anticipate based on their specific situation, which in turn can help them figure out how much they may need to save up to help cover a longer leave financially.”
But, most of the leave information is given to the employee in the two meetings closer towards the end of their pregnancy. To make it easy for the employee, Carmela has a packet of all the forms and informational materials for all the different types of benefits for new mothers they will need to go over, printed and ready for the first meeting insuring that the employee has all the information they would need to make a decision about how they would take their leave. As far as timing, she usually holds the first meeting about 5-6 weeks before the due date, and the second about 3 weeks before the baby is due. This way, the plan would be in place before the birth, and there would be a buffer in case the baby comes early – spoiler alert, more on that in a minute…
In the first meeting, she goes over a general overview and covers details like:
- What is the employee eligible for? (including DBL, FMLA, PFL, and any other short-term disability options)
- How long do they plan to be out?
- How much vacation/personal time off the employee has in their “bank”.
- The options for leave duration (for example, PFL allows you to take time all at once or in increments, how DBL and PFL durations relate)
- What to expect in the process, including what kinds of paperwork is required and how the paid leave will work.
- Timeline of when to file what, and where.
- Review of benefits and identify what coverage would continue while on leave (health insurance, etc.)
The second meeting she walks through that specific employee’s situation, looking at how many PTO days etc., lays out sample leave specific to that employee, and answers any remaining questions the employee may have after reading through the packet given to them at the first meeting.
In this case, though, Stephanie threw a bit of a wrench in the works for Carmela: Stephanie’s baby, Olivia, arrived 3.5 weeks early. In fact, ironically, Olivia arrived on the very day that Stephanie and Carmela were scheduled to have Stephanie’s final meeting. While this is an unusual case, the paperwork process was not affected because you shouldn’t file your PFL claim until after the baby is born anyway. Steph and Carmela touched base via phone and email after Steph was home and settled after giving birth.
Stephanie wasn’t Carmela’s first PFL claim. She’d processed one other PFL bonding leave, and one for care of an ill family member. “Every PFL claim is emotional,” Carmela said. “While processing a bonding leave claim is filled with joy, it was very different when an employee needed to take leave because of an ill family member. While it ended up okay in the end, I really felt for the employee in the moment, and I worried about their family member.”
Carmela shared with us that PFL requirements have added an additional burden for HR teams to ensure that every option is clearly defined, all the paperwork is processed, and assisting managers strategize coverage. Carmela’s team, like many HR teams, relies on spreadsheets to track all the ins and outs of setting up and executing a PFL claim. While this can work, it can also be very time consuming. When combined with all the other HR functions, Carmela’s team has been exploring introducing a leave management tool and formulating a more formal process to help coordinate PFL, DBL, FMLA, and ShelterPoint vacation and leave policy. “A tool like this,” Carmela noted, “could make it much more efficient to track leave time against each bucket.”
And yet, even now while armed with just a spreadsheet and the first-hand experience of facilitating Paid Family Leave claims, Carmela still feels much more prepared for when her next employee needs to take leave. “It’s a little scary at first, but as you set up processes and see them working, you feel more prepared for the next one.”
Tune in next time, for the final chapter in our story. Sign-up for updates now so you don’t miss what happened when Steph headed back to work!
PFL Tips for HR Managers
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This blog post is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal counsel. Please consult with an appropriate professional for legal and compliance advice. Any PFL information is as of the blog post’s date stamp; it is based on the applicable statutes and regulation, and may change as regulations evolve or NY State issues guidance regarding Paid Family Leave regulations. Have more questions? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org