In an agency survey, the word used most often to describe Firehouse culture was family. And, while a close-knit culture matters, treating each other like family means something more, including supporting our employees’ family lives outside of Firehouse.
Like so many things with running a small business, determining the right parental leave policy for your agency presents a challenging balancing act. On the one hand, it’s painful to think of weeks without access to some of your most effective team members or the expense of resourcing their position in their absence. On the other hand, we know one of the most important gifts we can give people is the time to assimilate a child into their hearts and homes.
So, what do you do? Given the opportunity, the Firehouse executive team decided to rethink our parental leave policy. And, in so doing, we wanted to create something that will provide for our employees today and those we may have in the future.
According to data compiled in 2018 by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, only about 20% of private sector employees have access to paid parental leave. Now, most agencies offer paid maternity leave of at least six weeks and often some sort of paternity leave as well. And there has been a concerted push by Pledge Parental Leave, started by a group of New York agency leaders, to get the industry to a standard of twelve paid weeks for primary caregivers. But, we wanted to do more than that, and, with more paths toward parenting than ever before, we wanted to craft a policy inclusive of all our employees, whoever they are and however their new child enters their lives.
We arrived at a policy that only distinguishes between birth mothers and non-birth parents. Birth mothers get 16 total weeks. This includes 12 weeks fully paid, plus two transition weeks on either side off the birth during which they are only obligated to working 50% to receive full pay. Non-birth parents - whether the husband of a wife giving birth, an adopting parent, or half of a same-sex couple having a child via surrogacy - get 10 total weeks, six weeks of fully paid leave with four half-time weeks. And, we’ve provided financial assistance to offset some of the costs off adoption.
We’ve done our research. Sure, you can find more generous policies out there. Some of the tech giants and even some nationally-known agencies can still beat us. But we know we are offering a better policy than most competing agencies and the Dallas market in general. More importantly, we feel good knowing we’ve stretched to do the best we can for our team.
We recognize our business is only as good as the talent of our people, and, if we can offer a meaningful benefit that helps retain key players through one of the most important transitions in their lives, the cost of a more progressive policy is a very worthwhile investment.