PR Firms as Parental Units

By Matthew Schwartz

It never fails. When you chat with PR agency owners and C-suite executives about their firm’s culture it takes all of five minutes before they assure you that the biggest asset is “We’re like a family.”

Fair enough, but we know all too well that some families are closer than others, particularly when it comes to provisions and level of support.

And so it goes with PR firms’ maternity and paternity policies.

At a recent PR roundtable discussion hosted by Gould+Partners and Anchin, PR firm owners and C-suite executives talked about the growing challenges of offering competitive maternity and paternity policies.

While the bulk of these policies cater toward female employees (for obvious reasons), paternity-leave policies are starting to gain traction, as a growing number of men stay at home and take care of the kids.

Of course, there are multiple aspects to consider when crafting maternity and paternity leave policies, including the level of payment for time off, use of health insurance benefits as part of the policy and non paid leave.

“It’s a double-edged sword,” said Rick Gould, referring to maternity/paternity leave policies among PR firms.

He added, “On the one hand, PR firms need to offer generous packages in order to maintain their appeal among prospects and millennials, in particular. On the other hand, if the policies are too liberal, firms risk losing revenue and/or clients because there could be an executive who takes six months or a year off (for leave) and the client who this person has been working with is unsatisfied with the new account executive and ends up taking his business elsewhere.”

The roundtable discussion revealed that maternity/paternity policies that PR firms offer are all over the map, while some owners said they devote an increasing amount of their time to improve their policies’ appeal among both existing employees and prospects. Here are a few examples gleaned from the roundtable discussion.

> At the most generous end of the spectrum one PR agency offers three to four months of paid leave, including short-term disability benefits, for both female and male employees. Beyond that, female and male employee are allowed to take up to a year off; however, salary will only be forthcoming for the first four months of leave. Health insurance benefits are valid for the entire year off.

> On the lower end of the spectrum, another PR firm offers both maternity and paternity leave for a total of just four weeks off, paid in full. The senior PR executive sharing the information admitted that the short time off puts the agency at a competitive disadvantage and the firm is now seriously considering reevaluating the policy to allow for more time off for expecting moms and dads.

> Falling roughly in between the two policies above is a firm that offers its employees roughly two months off for paid maternity/paternity leave. “It’s become quite expensive,” said the executive, adding that the firm is currently reevaluating its maternity/paternity policies.

The disparities in maternity/paternity policies are a reflection of a few factors, primarily how profitable the firm is and what it can and can’t afford when it comes to employees being away from the office and their clients for several weeks or months. (To participate in our Quick Poll regarding PR firms’ policies with regard to maternity/paternity leave policies, please click here.)

Michael Lasky, co-chair of the Litigation Practice Group & Chair of the Public Relations Law Practice Group at Davis & Gilbert LLP, said PR firm policies for employees who are expecting a child increasingly are being tailored as “parental leave” policies for “primary caregivers” and “secondary caregivers,” as opposed to “maternity” and “paternity” leave policies.

“The policies are not designed to be tied to gender but, rather, focused on the parent who is primarily responsible for caregiving early in the baby’s life,” Lasky said.

He added that policies may define “primary” and “secondary” caregivers based on level of caregiving responsibilities and provide a longer paid leave period for the primary caregiver.

The policies also take into account the adoption process and provide paid leave benefits for caregiving by employees who adopt a child, according to Lasky.

What’s the biggest challenge in crafting your maternity/paternity leave policy and is altering the policy taking up more and more bandwidth?

 

Rick Gould, CPA, J.D., managing partner of Gould+Partners, is the author of “The Ultimate PR Agency Financial Management Handbook: How to Manage By The Numbers for Breakthrough Profitability of 20% or Greater,” and “Doing It The Right Way: 13 Crucial Steps For A Successful PR Agency Merger Or Acquisition.” 

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