While having or adopting a child can be a rewarding and exciting time for new parents, many working moms and dads will tell you navigating the complex maze of employee benefits can be confusing. Between short-term disability insurance, Family Medical Leave, vacation, paid time off and state and municipal paid leave laws, the process can be anxiety-inducing.
To help alleviate stress, employee benefits company Unum recently conducted research among new parents who had a child or adopted in the previous five years. The findings pointed to a need for more communication between the new parents and their workplace human resources and management teams, both before and after leave.
Communicate early and develop a leave plan
Nearly half (49%) of new moms and more than a third (36%) of new dads surveyed did not meet with their manager or human resources department to discuss their leave benefits. Of those who did, 40% spent 30 minutes or less doing so.
“Most employers offer standard benefits for new parents including disability insurance (for birth moms) and Family Medical Leave, and we’re finding more companies are adding additional perks like company-paid leave, flexible schedules and college savings accounts,” said Angel Bennett, a director in the Leave Management Center at Unum. “It’s important for expectant parents to meet with their managers and human resources to inform them, discuss available benefits and develop their leave plans well before the baby’s arrival.”
Nearly half (47%) of new birth moms said breastfeeding is one of their biggest challenges upon returning to the workplace. Mothers who plan on breastfeeding should discuss their options with human resources. Some companies offer lactation rooms, milk storage options and breast milk shipping services.
Things to discuss and consider after the baby arrives
Perhaps unsurprisingly, 48% of new parents are more tired, 35% are more stressed and 30% are more stressed about finances. However, some employers offer benefits that can help.
According to the Unum research, 60% of new mothers and 40% of new fathers struggled with depression or anxiety following the birth or adoption of their children. Many companies offer an employee assistance program, which can include a fixed number of counseling sessions or tele-behavioral health options, to help with life challenges.
Personal finance expert Laura Adams also suggests an open dialogue with your employer about financial protection benefits to help reduce anxiety during this potentially challenging time.
“Ensure your income is protected by reviewing your long-term disability insurance policy and that your family is taken care of with a life insurance policy,” Adams said. “Also be sure to add the new child to your health care policy and, if available, consider signing up or increasing the amount you put into a flexible spending account.”
To help new parents navigate these processes, “Bringing Up Baby: A Guide to Workplace Parental Leave Resources” contains basic tips, timing and conversation starters to engage with managers and human resources representatives. This guide, along with other employee and employer resources including a mental health report and caregiving report, can be found at unum.com/workwell.