If you are interested in approaching your organization about improving family leave and/or flexible schedule policies, here are five steps that will help you make an effective case.

1. Collect Data in Your Workplace

Understand everything about your existing policies, and if people have taken leave before or arranged flexible schedules, collect data on employee experiences. Circulating a survey to your co-workers to find out what worked, what didn’t, and what they’d like to change will help you understand the specific needs at your organization.

2. Research the Competition

Doing competitive research on what kinds of policies other organizations offer can provide a great template for what to seek from your employer, and such research can be a nudge if competitors are doing a better job. Don’t limit yourself to just news organizations in your area— include companies outside your industry that compete for talent. The best available resource on this is fairygodboss.com.

3. Find Allies

Look around your organization for people who want to advocate for this cause, especially people with authority. There is “safety in numbers” and if many employees get behind an effort for better family leave, it can show the leadership that it’s a larger issue rather than just a concern of one or two people.

4. Make a Business Case

As extensively detailed in “Where Are the Mothers?,” paid family leave can lead to higher employee retention rates, and save organizations money in the long run. Plenty of data exists to effectively make the case that better policies are a smart business decision, rather than just an act of altruism.

5. Be Specific in Your Requests

The more you put forth concrete well-researched proposals with well-reasoned arguments, the easier it is for leaders to sign off on your ideas.  For example, ask for “extension of leave to 16 weeks at full pay,” rather than “a more generous policy.”

Whenever possible, avoid negotiating individually for better deals, while subpar policies are kept on the books. This reinforces the idea that adequate family leave is a “perk” given to valuable employees only. Aim to formalize changes that bring everyone along.

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