In HR Dive's Mailbag series, we answer HR professionals' questions about all things work. Have a question? Send it to [email protected].
Q: We rolled out a new parental leave policy that's quite generous. How do we talk about it with workers who don't get to use it?
Attorney and consultant Kate Bischoff hears this question quite a bit from her clients. It's not always in regards to parental leave, however: The quandary can include any kind of newly introduced benefit, from tuition repayment to fertility treatments.
The answer to this question has less to do with communication strategies and more to do with an employer's overarching benefits program. "This is why it's important for employers to have really good, diverse benefits," Bischoff said.
When an employer rolls out a desirable new benefit, HR should point to what the organization is offering on the whole. "Your parental leave isn't the only thing that's driving people to come to you," Bischoff noted. A generous parental leave program could be complemented by paid time off for other types of caregiving — even a week off to house train a new puppy. Employers can likewise match a tuition stipend or a student loan repayment program with continuing education benefits.
Bischoff's bottom line: "Don't just single out the hip new thing. Do it across the board."
Some employers may have an opportunity to apply this lesson as they navigate their communications around travel benefits for abortion. Bischoff noted that the changing landscape around abortion is far from a trendy topic. But it is incredibly timely: In wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, some organizations are offering employees working in states where abortion is banned money to go out of state to seek such services.
"Rolling that out, add what else you provide for healthcare," Bischoff recommended. "Add that you'll provide out-of-state travel for any health issue." If an employee lacks cancer care in South Dakota, for example, an employer can pay for their travel to find doctors in Minnesota.
"That's how I would recommend communicating that," Bischoff said. "This is the thing at the moment, but here's what it means for everyone."
Such an approach requires benefits and HR practitioners to look at their offerings through a diversity, equity and inclusion lens — something many HR decisions would benefit from, Bischoff noted. It also requires some creativity. "Think outside the box so your options are more equitable," she said.
The approach should motivate employers to think in the long term, too, she said. Employers shouldn't introduce benefits because they're trendy, Bischoff said, again noting the difference between timeliness and trendiness. Employers should instead consider their long-term commitment to benefits with an eye toward the legal landscape.
Bischoff brought up the example of state and local paid family leave laws emerging in tandem with employer policies offering similar provisions. "How does your program differ from the state program? What would you do to supplement it, if anything?" she mused. "I want employers to be committed to their benefits but have a lens of what the legal changes could be down the road."