How To Manage Payroll During Parental Leave For Employees

Effective payroll management is paramount for any organization. Incorrect or mishandled payroll processes can lead to a range of issues, including employee dissatisfaction due to late or incomplete salary payments, increased employee turnover, and the potential for legal complications, which no company wishes to encounter. 

Most of the time, companies pay their employees for their hard work. But there are some situations where they pay their employees even when they’re not working at all. One such situation is parental leave. It’s not uncommon for employees to take parental leave, whether it’s for the birth of a child, adoption, or other family-related reasons. When this happens, payroll can get a bit more complicated.

Given the complexities of managing payroll during parental leave, let’s explore the significance of parental leave, related guidelines, and best practices to assist companies in navigating this crucial aspect of HR.

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The Importance of Parental Leave 

The birth or adoption of a child is a special and joyous occasion for the whole family. Both parents should have the opportunity to stay home and take care of the baby during this time. Parental leave is important because it gives fathers the time to bond with their new child and support their partner during the postpartum period.

In the United States, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave within 12 months for certain family-related reasons, including parental leave. However, not all employers are covered by FMLA, and some employees may not meet the eligibility requirements.

Parental leave is not just for the birth or adoption of a child. Employees can also take parental leave to fulfill their parental responsibilities, or to provide care to their partner or child when they are ill.

Some companies offer paid parental leave as an additional benefit to their employees. This is a great way to show employees that the company cares about their well-being and supports work-life balance.

Parental leave benefits are important for fathers, mothers, children, and employers. It allows fathers to bond with their new children, mothers to recover from childbirth, and children to have a strong relationship with both parents. Parental leave can also improve employee morale and productivity, and reduce turnover.

How to Manage Payroll During Parental Leave

Managing payroll during parental leave can be complex, but it is important to do so accurately and efficiently to avoid any potential issues. Here are some tips:

  1. Understand the company policy and government regulations: parental leave is a legal right for employees, and they are entitled to take leave in accordance with the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and other applicable state laws. Company policies may also affect parental leave. If you are new to the HR department or this is the first time your company has had an employee take parental leave, it is important to familiarize yourself with all of the relevant laws and policies. It will also help you determine whether or not parental leave is paid. There is even a separate act for pregnant workers known as PWFA.
  1. Proper Documentation: It is essential when an employee requests parental leave. HR should communicate clearly with the employee to understand the requested leave period and return-to-work date. All relevant documentation from the leave request for leave approval should be maintained.
  2. Update payroll department and payroll system: Once parental leave is approved by the employer or HR department, the next crucial step is to inform the payroll department. This ensures they are well prepared to handle the upcoming payroll cycle. Depending on whether the leave is fully paid, partially paid, or unpaid, the payroll department will need to make appropriate adjustments to the payroll system. For paid leave, no significant changes are required. In the case of partially paid or unpaid leave, the necessary modifications must be made to accurately reflect the compensation adjustments in the system.
  3. Communicate with the employee: In this step, the payroll or HR department should communicate with the employee in writing to provide clear and comprehensive information about their parental leave pay. This written communication serves to prevent any misunderstandings regarding their compensation during the leave. This should include details on the duration of the leave they are eligible for and how their pay will be calculated.
  4. Payments and Deductions During Parental Leave: You must ensure accurate and timely payment as per the agreed terms for employees on parental leave. Even if the employee is not receiving direct pay, it’s crucial to continue deducting items like taxes and health insurance premiums. Employees on parental leave remain entitled to these benefits, so it’s essential to maintain the regular processing of their payroll deductions.
  5. Open Communication with Employees on Parental Leave: Maintain open communication with employees while they are on parental leave, ensuring they feel supported and informed. Encourage them to reach out with any concerns or issues they may encounter during their leave. A direct line of communication with the responsible person or department will facilitate the prompt resolution of any concerns, promoting a smooth and stress-free leave experience for the employee.
  1. Monitor the employee’s parental leave status: Track the employee’s parental leave status and adjust their payroll as needed. For example, if their return-to-work date changes, update their payroll accordingly. Also, stay in communication with the employee to ensure that all payroll changes and adjustments are accurate, providing a seamless transition as they return to work.


Parental leave is a crucial aspect of work-life balance and family support. Whether it’s for the birth or adoption of a child or fulfilling parental responsibilities, it plays a significant role in an employee’s life.

To manage payroll during parental leave effectively, HR departments need to be well-versed in both legal requirements and company policies. Clear communication and documentation are key to ensuring a smooth process.

Continuing payroll deductions, even when the employee is on leave, is essential to maintaining their benefits.

Open communication with employees on leave is fundamental. It fosters trust and helps resolve any concerns promptly.

Finally, monitoring the employee’s leave status and adjusting payroll accordingly ensures a seamless transition when they return to work.

By following these steps and practices, companies can navigate parental leave, support their employees, and foster a family-friendly work environment, ultimately benefiting everyone involved.

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