While 72 percent of the workforce agrees with paid family leave, only 13 percent receive the benefit.

By Heather Whaling

As we prepare for a new presidential administration to be sworn in, the dialogue around paid family leave continues. Only 13 percent of American workers receive paid family leave benefits through their employers, yet 72 percent of Americans support paid leave.

We have no idea if a national paid leave policy will be enacted under this administration and Congress, and it typically takes large corporations a significant amount of time to review and update processes. But small businesses, with less bureaucracy and more flexibility, can develop and implement policies far quicker.

By offering employees progressive paid leave policies, small businesses can create a competitive advantage and use it to attract top talent: people who also believe that paid leave should be a right for all employees, not just luck of the draw.

But implementing a paid family leave policy isn't just a competitive tactic, it's the right thing to do. Small-business owners and entrepreneurs are often on the forefront of innovation. Now we have an opportunity to also innovate workplace policies to catch up with the needs of today's workforce.

Do the Math

The benefits of providing a progressive paid leave policy for new parents far outweigh any costs. Consider how much a mid-level employee makes over the course of 10 weeks. Now compare that to the cost of hiring and training a new worker when that same mid-level employee returns to work too soon after becoming a new parent-checked out and without enough time to bond with their new child-or doesn't return to work at all after experiencing an insufficient time off policy. Yes, providing time off is an investment, but it's one that pays dividends when businesses retain valuable employees-especially when you factor in the cost of hiring and training a replacement employee: approximately 20 percent of the original employee's salary.

Of course, your company's workload isn't going to lighten just because an employee is taking paid leave. Options to fill any gaps during paid time off include contracting writing work out to freelancers or hiring a virtual office manager. Not all businesses will be able to offer lengthy time-off policies, so consider supplementing with "transition" periods where employees can work from home. In today's workplace, there are very few times an employee needs to be in the office to contribute.

Equality Means More Than Equal Pay

Paid leave policies that are limited to new moms-or exclude new dads from receiving the same level of benefits as their female colleagues-reinforce the antiquated gender norm that says mothers are the primary caregivers and fathers' careers are more important. Just as women deserve to earn as much as men, new dads deserve equal time to bond with their children and adjust to the new realities of parenthood.

Getting Started

One of the biggest challenges small-business owners face when creating a paid parental leave policy for the first time is not knowing where to start. Luckily, central Ohio small businesses like Geben Communication, treetree and Wolf's Ridge Brewing are sharing their paid leave policies and encouraging others to follow suit. To help solve this problem on a wider scale, we're creating a searchable database of paid leave policies that small-business owners borrow from to mix and match a paid leave policy that works for them.

Does your small business already have a paid leave policy? Submit it here so we can work together to accelerate the adoption of paid leave policies.

Heather Whaling is the founder and CEO of Geben Communication. Tweet with @prtini to continue the conversation on paid leave.