Risk Insider: Terri Rhodes

Paid Leave Gets More Complicated

By: | September 25, 2017 • 4 min read
Terri L. Rhodes is CEO of the Disability Management Employer Coalition. Terri was an Absence and Disability Management Consultant for Mercer, and also served as Director of Absence and Disability for Health Net and Corporate IDM Program Manager for Abbott Laboratories.

Earlier this year, I forecast the five absence and disability management trends for 2017.  One of them was paid family leave. What I didn’t know at the time was how many employers were working on developing and implementing company programs.


DMEC has hosted several local chapter meetings in 2017, showcasing employers who recently implemented a paid family or parental leave program. At the DMEC Annual Conference, we also devoted a morning to this same topic.

The exciting thing to see was that many of these companies were not Silicon Valley or household-name employers, who typically lead the way in enhanced benefit packages. While some were large companies with well-known brands, the message was not about the size of the organization but rather the reasons for implementing a paid family leave program in their organization. These companies have a desire to do the right thing, to ensure their programs reflect their company culture, to attract new employees and retain existing employees.

According to Pew Research, 85 percent of Americans support paid leave for an employee’s own serious health condition and 82 percent support paid maternity leave, while 69 percent support paid paternity leave. And 67 percent also support paid leave to care for a seriously ill family member.

Without a national law, states, localities, and regulators continue to weigh in with new leave mandates and interpretations on how paid programs must be offered.

Some states have recently legislated paid family leave and there is more to come. Employers are grappling with the difficulties that come with continual changes in paid leave laws and regulations. This was confirmed in the latest DMEC Paid Parental Leave Pulse Survey, conducted with The Standard.

While the vast majority of employers want to implement or expand their paid family leave programs, costs and complexity create barriers. The difficulties and limitations are largely due to the lack of a federal mandate. In a 2014 study conducted by the International Labour Organization, Papua New Guinea and the United States are the only two countries, out of 185, without a national public policy for paid maternity leave. 78 of those 185 countries have a mandated paternity leave.

Without a national law, states, localities, and regulators continue to weigh in with new leave mandates and interpretations on how paid programs must be offered. For example, the EEOC recently sued Estee Lauder because the company does not provide new fathers with the same paid leave as new mothers.

In addition, state and federal FMLA laws have different regulations on who is considered a “covered family member,” and many family units now vary beyond a “one mom, one dad” structure.

All of this makes it important to define the terms as companies look to build their paid leave programs.

Paid Family Care Leave: This is defined as paid leave to care for a family member as defined by policy. This typically refers to immediate family (spouse, domestic partner, child, step relationships and parents), though it may apply to grandparents, grandchildren or in-laws depending on the policy.

Paid Parental Leave: This is defined as paid leave for new mothers, fathers, adoptive parents, primary or contingent caregivers.

Primary Caregiver: A primary caregiver is a parent, family member or guardian who has self-identified as the person who has primary responsibility for a child.

Contingent Caregiver: A contingent caregiver is a parent, family member or guardian who has self-identified as the person who supports or partners with the primary caregiver to care for a child.

Below are some other issues you should discuss if your organization is considering rolling out or upgrading a paid leave program.

Gender Equality: Social attitudes about the relationships among men, women and children continue to change. Rather than “mothers” and “fathers” with distinct roles, many people now think in terms of “parents” with shared and overlapping rights and responsibilities. The increased reality and visibility of same-sex parents has helped to accelerate this trend. As the EEOC case noted above indicates, treating people equally is always a safe route to reduce risk. It’s also increasingly important to attract top talent in a tight labor market.

Extent of Coverage: Will paid leave cover just managers? If it covers everyone, will management and non-management employees receive different types of paid leave? Again, while each organization is different, uniform policies always reduce risk (and administrative costs). They also communicate a less rigid organizational structure, and play an important part in attracting top talent in today’s competitive hiring environment.


Full or Partial Pay: While more employers provide full paid leave, many still pay a percentage of an employee’s salary. This is almost always an affordability issue. As the labor market tightens, these costs are increasingly weighed against the need to attract and retain desired employees. More generous paid leave programs communicate a commitment to work-life balance. This can sometimes be even more effective than higher base pay in attracting skilled and dedicated workers.

These are just a few of the issues around implementing an effective and compliant paid leave program. Even though external conditions continue to evolve, there are best practices that are working in today’s market. Learning what peers are doing is a good way to reduce risk and maximize the competitive advantages of this increasingly important employee benefit.

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Risk Management

The Profession

Janet Sheiner, VP of risk management and real estate at AMN Healthcare Services Inc., sees innovation as an answer to fast-evolving and emerging risks.
By: | March 5, 2018 • 4 min read

R&I: What was your first job?

As a kid, bagging groceries. My first job out of school, part-time temp secretary.

R&I: How did you come to work in risk management?

Risk management picks you; you don’t necessarily pick it. I came into it from a regulatory compliance angle. There’s a natural evolution because a lot of your compliance activities also have the effect of managing your risk.

R&I: What is the risk management community doing right?


There’s much benefit to grounding strategic planning in an ERM framework. That’s a great innovation in the industry, to have more emphasis on ERM. I also think that risk management thought leaders are casting themselves more as enablers of business, not deterrents, a move in the right direction.

R&I: What could the risk management community be doing a better job of?

Justified or not, risk management functions are often viewed as the “Department of No.” We’ve worked hard to cultivate a reputation as the “Department of Maybe,” so partners across the organization see us as business enablers. That reputation has meant entertaining some pretty crazy ideas, but our willingness to try and find a way to “yes” tempered with good risk management has made all the difference.

Janet Sheiner, VP, Risk Management & Real Estate, AMN Healthcare Services Inc.

R&I: What was the best location and year for the RIMS conference and why?

San Diego, of course!  America’s Finest City has the infrastructure, Convention Center, hotels, airport and public transportation — plus you can’t beat our great weather! The restaurant scene is great, not to mention those beautiful coastal views.

R&I: What’s been the biggest change in the risk management and insurance industry since you’ve been in it?

The emergence of risk management as a distinct profession, with four-year degree programs and specific academic curriculum. Now I have people on my team who say their goal is to be a risk manager. I said before that risk management picks you, but we’re getting to a point where people pick it.

R&I: What emerging commercial risk most concerns you?


The commercial insurance market’s ability to innovate to meet customer demand. Businesses need to innovate to stay relevant, and the commercial market needs to innovate with us.  Carriers have to be willing to take on more risk and potentially take a loss to meet the unique and evolving risks companies are facing.

R&I: Of which insurance carrier do you have the highest opinion?

Beazley. They have been an outstanding partner to AMN. They are responsive, flexible and reasonable.  They have evolved with us. They have an appreciation for risk management practices we’ve organically woven into our business, and by extension, this makes them more comfortable with taking on new risks with us.

R&I: Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the U.S. health care industry and why?

I am very optimistic about the health care industry. We have an aging population with burgeoning health care needs, coupled with a decreasing supply of health care providers — that means we have to get smarter about how we manage health care. There’s a lot of opportunity for thought leaders to fill that gap.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

Professionally, AMN Healthcare General Counsel, Denise Jackson, has enabled me to do the best work I’ve ever done, and better than I thought I could do.  Personally, my husband Andrew, a second-grade teacher, who has a way of putting things into a human perspective.

R&I: What have you accomplished that you are proudest of?

In my early 20s, I set a goal for the “corner office.” I achieved that when I became vice president.  I received a ‘Values in Practice’ award for trust at AMN. The nomination came from team members I work with every day, and I was incredibly humbled and honored.

R&I: What is your favorite book or movie?

The noir genre, so anything by Raymond Chandler in books. For movies,  “Double Indemnity,” the 1944 Billy Wilder classic, with insurance at the heart of it!

R&I: What is your favorite drink?


Clean water. Check out Water.org for how to help people enjoy clean, safe water.

R&I: What’s the best restaurant at which you’ve eaten?

Liqun Roast Duck Restaurant in Beijing.

R&I: What is the most unusual/interesting place you have ever visited?

China. See favorite restaurant above. This restaurant had been open for 100 years in that location. It didn’t exactly have an “A” rating, and it was probably not a place most risk managers would go to.

R&I: What is the riskiest activity you ever engaged in?

Eating that duck at Liqun!

R&I: If the world has a modern hero, who is it and why?

Dr. Seuss who, in response to a 1954 report in Life magazine, worked to reduce illiteracy among school children by making children’s books more interesting. His work continues to educate and entertain children worldwide.

R&I: What do your friends and family think you do?

They’re not really sure!

Katie Dwyer is an associate editor at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]