A few years back, while I was still studying at the university, I landed a job with a data entry startup company as a freelancer. The pay wasn’t good but it was enough to get me by.
I managed to make friends with some of the permanent employees and I remember one particular lady who became pregnant while working at the startup. It wasn’t such a pleasant experience for her. The startup did not have a maternity policy that allowed her flexibility she needed for doctor’s appointments, pediatrician interviews, and daycare registration and so on.
The workplace environment did not support her at all and she had to work 10 hours a day and sometimes put in extra hours just so that she could finish up her projects and retain her job. She requested a maternity leave (which was unpaid) and that was the last time she ever came to work. I later on came to learn that she had found a job with another company that had a generous maternity package.
Many startups are founded by people who are in their twenties and they subsequently hire people who are in their twenties. Even startups that are started by people who are in their forties tend to hire people who are young for operation roles and sales.
Unfortunately, most of these startups do not consider a maternity leave policy as something that they should incorporate in their package. In fact, according to a study done by San Francisco Based Startup PaperG, a number of startups offered perks like unlimited vacation, catered lunches, gym memberships but very few offered maternity leave.
If you are planning to start your business, you should strongly consider incorporating a strong maternity and paternity package based on these three reasons:
1. You Will Retain Employees
Any startup knows that the best recipe for high employee turnover is a combination of young employees and retaining them is very critical especially in the early stages of the startup. The cost of losing an employee varies from one startup to the other but it can be as much as nine months of the position’s salary. Sometimes losing an employee can cripple the company especially if the startup works with a small staff.
So the point here is startups need to realise that as much as young employees are a recipe for a high turnover, it will reach a point when they will grow up and major life events will happen – including pregnancy.
As your company grows and your employees get to know and understand your product better, your company benefits need to also grow and accommodate them. Otherwise, they will be moving on to a company that has better benefits.
2. You Can Tap in to a Bigger Talent Pool
At some point you will consider hiring seasoned employees once your company matures and you have some extra cash to pay higher salaries. Seasoned employees are most likely going to be senior level candidates who are ready for a new adventure but unwilling to give up their big business benefits.
If you do not include a maternity package as part of your policy, your startup will be locking out a huge talent pool. Offering a competitive package will help you attract talented women and men from both ends of the experience spectrum.
3. You Will Maintain a Healthy Workplace Culture
First, your employees need to see that everyone is treated fairly in the workplace especially during challenging times. This will make them feel confident that should they be in a similar challenging position, they will be treated fairly.
Including a solid maternity and paternity policy in your startup will create a more equitable workplace culture. Not only will it help you recruit talented parents but it will show that you treat women and mothers as valuable assets of the company; something that you cannot be able to show with the absence of a paid maternity leave.
I understand that offering a paid leave can be difficult for any startup that is trying to make a profit. Unfortunately, there are some investments that you simply cannot ignore; you just have to include them in your policies if you want to retain employees, hire both ends of the spectrum and maintain a healthy workplace culture. I’d love to know what other reasons you think a maternity leave policy is important to a startup.