HomeEmployee ExperienceDEI&BDiversity & InclusionWhy start-ups cannot afford to ignore parental policies

Why start-ups cannot afford to ignore parental policies

  • 5 Min Read

In many countries, there are laws in place that mandate parental leave for employees, regardless of whether they work for a start-up or a larger company. These laws typically provide a certain amount of leave for both mothers and fathers

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Start-ups have long been associated with their fast-paced, high-pressure work environments, where employees are expected to work long hours and make sacrifices for the success of the company.

Unfortunately, one area where start-ups often fall short is in their provision of maternity leave policies. Many start-ups, especially those with limited resources, struggle to offer extended paid leave to new parents.


The legal requirements for parental leave vary depending on the jurisdiction and the size of the start-up. In many countries, there are laws in place that mandate parental leave for employees, regardless of whether they work for a start-up or a larger company.

These laws typically provide a certain amount of leave for both mothers and fathers, allowing them to take time off to care for their newborn or adopted child.

In the US, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for the birth, adoption, or foster care placement of a child. The FMLA applies to private-sector employers with 50 or more employees. Some states have additional laws that provide for paid family leave, such as California, New York, and New Jersey.

In the UK, eligible employees are entitled to take up to 52 weeks of statutory maternity leave. The first 26 weeks are known as “Ordinary Maternity Leave,” and the subsequent 26 weeks are called “Additional Maternity Leave.” Statutory maternity pay is provided for up to 39 weeks. Similar entitlements are available for fathers and partners, referred to as “paternity leave” and “shared parental leave.”

Because it is a legal requirement, start-ups and SMEs face a civil penalty from HMRC if they fail to pay the correct amount. That’s why it is important to be clear in your employment contracts how much maternity pay employees will receive, how long for, and under what conditions.

The human case for maternity leave

Supporting the physical and mental wellbeing of employees

One of the most important reasons for start-ups to implement maternity leave policies is to support the physical and mental well-being of their employees. Becoming a parent is a significant life event that requires time for recovery and adjustment.

New mothers need time to physically heal from childbirth, especially if they have undergone a caesarean section. Additionally, the postpartum period can be emotionally challenging, with many women experiencing postpartum depression or anxiety.

By providing maternity leave, start-ups can ensure that their employees have the necessary time and support to recover and adjust to their new roles as parents.

Avoiding burnout and retaining Talent

Another important consideration for start-ups is the risk of employee burnout and turnover. Start-ups often rely on the dedication and hard work of their employees to succeed. However, demanding long hours and a lack of support for new parents can lead to burnout and increased turnover rates.

By offering maternity leave, start-ups can demonstrate their commitment to the well-being of their employees and create a supportive work environment. This can help to retain valuable talent and avoid the costs associated with recruiting and training new employees.

The business case for maternity leave

Enhancing productivity and creativity

Contrary to popular belief, offering maternity leave can actually enhance productivity and creativity within a start-up. New mothers who have had time to recover and adjust to their new roles as parents often bring a renewed sense of focus and determination to their work.

The experience of juggling the demands of a newborn baby can also sharpen multitasking skills, enabling new mothers to efficiently manage their work responsibilities.

By providing maternity leave, start-ups can tap into the untapped potential and creativity of their employees, resulting in increased productivity and innovation.

Attracting and retaining top talent

In today’s competitive job market, attracting and retaining top talent is essential for the success of any start-up. Offering comprehensive maternity leave policies can give start-ups a competitive edge when it comes to recruiting and retaining employees.

Many candidates, especially women, prioritize family-friendly benefits when considering job opportunities. By offering generous maternity leave, start-ups can attract top talent who value a supportive work environment and work-life balance. This can help start-ups build a diverse and talented workforce, which is crucial for long-term success.

Implementing policies on a start-up budget

While it may seem challenging for start-ups with limited resources to offer extended paid maternity leave, there are creative solutions that can help overcome these obstacles.

Startups can explore options such as project-based work, where expecting mothers can contribute their expertise and creativity on strategic projects while on leave. This can help maintain productivity and ensure the employee’s skills are utilized during their absence.

Partnering with external services

Another option for startups is to partner with external services, such as postpartum doulas or childcare providers, to provide support to new parents. By offering funds to cover these services, startups can alleviate the financial burden on employees while still providing essential support during the postpartum period.

This can be a cost-effective solution for start-ups that may not be able to provide full paid leave but still want to support their employees.

Flexible hybrid models

Start-ups can also consider implementing flexible hybrid models for maternity leave. Instead of offering a full 12 weeks of paid leave, start-ups can provide a combination of paid and part-time remote work options.

For example, start-ups can offer eight weeks of full paid leave followed by eight weeks of part-time remote work. This allows employees to gradually transition back to work while still having time to bond with their newborns.

Such models can strike a balance between supporting employees and meeting the financial constraints of start-ups.

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