Providing caregiver leave (beyond parental leave) as a benefit is a crucial way to show up with empathy for your employees. Beyond building goodwill, paid caregiver leave is also important for ensuring an equitable workplace. For example, because some state entitlements already include caregiver leave, you may have a California-based employee entitled to paid leave, whereas someone in Wyoming would be ineligible. Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), employees are covered and able to take caregiver leave, but it isn’t paid.
In this article, we’ll discuss what caregiver leave is, why your organization should implement a caregiver policy, and how to start writing it. We’ll also look at data from other organizations, states, and countries, which you can use to determine what you should be offering.
Caregiver leave policy generator
After submitting the form you'll be automatically redirected to our policy generator that you can save to your own Google Drive or download as an Excel file.
What is caregiver leave?
Caregiver leave grants employees time away from work to care for the serious medical needs of a loved one. While you’re probably familiar with FMLA policy and compliance, you may not be aware that it covers parental, medical, and caregiver leave. Caregiver leave is separate from parental leave (maternity leave, in particular, is a more prevalent and better understood workplace benefit than caregiver leave, according to the Congressional Research Service). This means that whether or not you have a written caregiver leave policy, employees may still be entitled to protected time off.
FMLA policy explicitly covers care for a domestic partner, spouse, child, or parent. However, in some state’s policies, like California, parents-in-law or grandchildren are also covered. It’s important to consider who’s included in differing state policies when writing your caregiver leave policy to ensure employees have equitable access to leave.
How to write a caregiver leave policy
While paid caregiver leave policies lag behind parental leave and medical leave in popularity, progressive employers often want to provide more support than what any given state may offer. A written policy ensures equitable access to caregiver leave for all employees.
What to ask and answer when creating your caregiver leave policy:
- Who is it for? This includes both employee tenure requirements as well as which relationships you will deem eligible for caregiver leave. We recommend broadening the scope of FMLA-covered relationships to also include: grandparents, grandchildren, parents-in-law, siblings, domestic partners, and designated persons. to include and other close relationships.
- What will the duration of leave be? Our 2023 Paid Leave Benchmark Survey showed most caregiving leave policies for venture-backed tech companies range from 2-12 weeks—though data from across the US shows a much wider range from two days to three years
- What percentage of an employee’s pay will you cover and for what duration? Consider FMLA eligibility and whether you’ll offer full or partial pay and for what duration of the total leave time.
- What US state policies impact your employees? How are remote employees or dispersed teams impacted differently? Try out our state leave laws map to get a general idea of different laws across the nation.
Our recommendation for creating equitable leave policies is to offer the same amount of time and pay for bonding, medical, and caregiver leave (e.g. 12 weeks each). Not everyone in your workforce will necessarily become a parent, but potentially anyone could become a caregiver or need to take a medical leave.
How caregiver leave works in Cocoon
Once you’ve answered the questions above and are ready to create your policy, you can easily input your preferences into our caregiver leave policy generator to get the basis for a first draft. After you’ve onboarded with Cocoon, you can turn on the caregiver leave feature so any caregiver leave-takers can see the time and pay available to them. You can also play around with our leave options explorer to see how different pay rules and time ranges can affect employees by locale.
Benchmarking caregiver leave across countries and corporations
Of the 38 companies Cocoon recently surveyed in our recurring Paid Leave Benchmark Report, 20% currently have a paid caregiver policy in place. These leaves vary anywhere from two to 16 weeks, with the average being in the 6-8 week range. The financial tech industry offers the longest average paid leave at 12 weeks, with 80% of consumer tech companies offering paid caregiver leave. Read more in our full report!
Currently in the United States, federal law does not require paid leave of any type, leaving the responsibility to states and corporations. Equitable and accessible paid caregiver leave is one of the crucial benefits that will be offered by an increasing number of modern, progressive companies—not just because it’s “the right thing to do” but because, as Ellen Meza explained in our roundtable, “this isn’t just a line item, it’s a benefit that will produce value—in dollars—for the company.” That’s why we want to offer all the resources we can towards your caregiver leave—from helping you start drafting the policy, offering benchmarking data, and monitoring your compliance and eligibility within Cocoon.