The Family Medical Leave Act gives parents 12 weeks of unpaid leave when they adopt a child. Few companies offer paid leave to adjust to new members of the household and even fewer cover adoption costs. However, parents who adopt children may get more support from employers in the future.
What Does FMLA Cover?
There are conditions that govern the FMLA benefits, including:
- Employees need one year of tenure at a company.
- Employees need to have worked a minimum of 1,250 hours within the previous 12 months.
- Companies with at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius are subject to the FMLA requirements.
Even when parents can get time off under FMLA, it's not paid. This can put adoptive parents in dire financial straits. Adoptive parents don't get the same provisions as birth parents because birth parents can take up to eight weeks of paid time off after the baby is born. The first few weeks of that may be medical leave claimed by the mother.
Some Employers Want More Equitable Rights for Adoptive Parents
Some employers are attempting to expand their benefits to include policies that support adoption. Adoption is a new experience with lots of unknowns for employees. Also, adoption opportunities aren't always planned, so it's hard to take time off with little or no income. The associated expense makes it hard to recover financially, especially if FMLA is taken.
The Cost of Adoption
The process of adoption can be extensive and expensive, costing up to $50,000, according to americanadoptions.com. One Richmond couple sought to adopt a child through a Texas adoption organization. When they were matched with a child, they had two months of advance notice. This gave them time to request time off at work to prepare for their first child.
Adoptive parents may also need to fly to another state or across the country to meet their new child. Flying can be quite expensive, making it even harder if the couple has to take time off work without being paid.
One dad employed by a financial services company credits his employer's support to his ability to expand his family. In this case, the company also gave the couple $35,000 toward adoption costs. This relieved the financial burden the family was under, allowing them to concentrate on getting to know their new baby. The couple had to wire $40,000 to complete the adoption.
Understanding managers may offer congratulations and assistance rather than inquiries and roadblocks. Out of this culture, expanded benefits arose, some of them offering PTO for adopted kids too. Generous policies for adoptive families allow companies to beef up their retention strategies.
One Couple's Experience
One new dad was grateful for the benefits offered by his company. He had already adopted a child and received paid time off. Later, he rejected an offer from a competitor, largely due to adoption reimbursement and other benefits available.
When the company culture respects the individual needs of its workforce and truly models that culture in times of need, those benefits are priceless to him.
Employers should continue to evaluate their policies to make sure they promote communication and flexibility. In addition, policies should be equitable to both genders and same-sex couples.
It's true that many people will never adopt a child. However, those who do should receive the same consideration as natural parents. The best plans include assistance paying for the adoption as well as time off to care for the child.
Companies that value their employees and aim to keep them are expanding their benefits to meet the needs of modern families and nontraditional scenarios, such as same-sex couples. As these benefits continue to expand, they may someday extend to absences for pet care and other legitimate benefits that make life easier for workers.
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