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Parental Leave: Are You Up To Speed?

Photographer: Mike Blake

Parental leave policy discrepancies at a cosmetics giant highlight the need for adequate training on family and medical leave as well as other forms of potential discrimination in the workplace.

Parental leave policy came under fire in August 2017, when the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a law suit against a cosmetics brand amidst allegations that the company’s policy allows male employees or ‘secondary caregivers’ only a third of the leave granted to new mothers or ‘primary caregivers’ – two weeks’ paid parental leave as opposed to 6 weeks for ‘child bonding’.

A male employee alleged that when he applied for parental leave, explaining that he was indeed the primary caregiver to his child, only two weeks were granted, with the company informing him that he would only be considered the primary caregiver in a surrogacy situation.

A further allegation was that the company grants female employees more flexible working arrangements than their male counterparts.

FMLA at a glance

In order to avoid potential legal liability such as that highlighted in this case, it is vital that HR professionals understand their obligations and consistently apply the law in instances involving family or medical leave.

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was passed in 1993 and amended in both 2008 and 2009. The Act stipulates that employees are entitled to a certain amount of unpaid annual leave:

  • for medical reasons
  • following the birth or adoption of a child
  • for exigencies related to a family member’s active-duty military service, or
  • if they need to care for a relative who has suffered serious injury or illness during military service

The Thomson Reuters FMLA compliance training course outlines the essential requirements of the Act, equipping HR professionals with the tools to understand eligibility and reinstatement requirements for all employees.

Screenshot of Thomson Reuters compliance learning course

Avoiding discrimination and harassment

Whilst this case draws attention to parental leave discrepancies, many other forms of discrimination must receive equal attention.

Discrimination and harassment in the workplace can have severe psychological effects on employees. Not only can the results be detrimental from a personal and social well-being perspective, but productivity often suffers. Moreover, resources may be channeled towards resolving issues and this could negatively impact an organization’s profitability.

All employees should receive regular training on how to recognize, address and prevent discrimination or harassment. The Thomson Reuters Preventing Discrimination and Harassment training course explains the types of workplace conduct that are considered unlawful discrimination and/or harassment and equips employees with the tools to effectively deal with incidents as they arise.

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