As a franchisee, you’re neither an employee nor a completely independent boss, which can have an effect on various aspects of your personal life. While working mums can generally have time off after the birth of their child, the situation is slightly different in the franchise world. Here, we’re exploring your rights to maternity leave as a franchisee.
If you know you’d like to have children during the term of your franchise agreement, there are steps you can take to boost your chances of getting that precious time off. Of course, many women in franchising don’t plan for pregnancy or have other priorities - but, either way, understanding your rights to maternity leave as a franchisee is paramount.
How do you prepare to take maternity leave as a franchisee?
Before we delve into franchisee rights, let’s talk a bit about planning for maternity leave. If you’re aware you may want children in the near future, it’s relatively easy to factor your ambitions into your long-term business plan.
Many franchises understand the importance of maternity leave for working mothers, and have resources in place to support franchisees when they decide to grow their family. These ‘family-friendly’ businesses don’t want to miss out on recruiting capable business leaders, and give their investors the chance to work flexibly on part-time hours.
While these adaptable franchise arrangements are better suited to certain industries, more and more franchisors are embracing measures enabling women and people from other disadvantaged groups to launch businesses.
Your rights to maternity leave as a franchisee
Can franchisees take maternity leave? The answer is complicated. Here are some of the key bits of information you need to know in order to take maternity leave as a franchisee:
- Taking maternity leave might constitute a contract breach - Your ability to take time off could fall down to the specific provisions of your franchise agreement. Some franchisors waive penalties at times of ‘incapacity’, but pregnancy and childbirth doesn’t always fall within this category.
- Talking to your franchisor can help - If the franchisor doesn’t already have measures in place to support working mothers, you’ll have to collaborate to find a solution. While many franchisors will do everything they can to support you, some may be a little more difficult to work with. In such cases, it's essential you understand your rights and maintain an open dialogue with the franchisor.
- You’ll find your rights listed in the contract - Checking your franchise agreement should help you better understand your rights to maternity leave as a franchisee, particularly if your franchisor hasn’t introduced any specific family-friendly policies. Find out whether you need to reach certain performance targets or keep your business open for a minimum number of hours. There may be an opportunity to work part-time hours when you come back to work.
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- Talk to a legal advisor - As the franchise contract is a legally-binding document, we always recommend asking a solicitor with franchising expertise to review it for you before you invest in a business. But consulting a legal advisor is also a good idea when you’re planning to take maternity leave. They’ll be able to translate any legal jargon and let you know whether your agreement will allow for specific flexible work arrangements.
- Get your franchisor to put agreements in writing - It’s a good idea to get evidence of your maternity leave arrangements, so, after discussing the situation with your franchisor, you should ask them to officially set out your agreements. You might also like to consult a solicitor at this point, as they’ll make sure the legal document covers all the necessary allowances for your maternity leave.
- Other franchisees may be able to help - While few franchise agreements make direct reference to maternity leave, many franchisors offer ad-hoc support to those wishing to take time off after childbirth. Some franchises allow franchisees in neighbouring territories to cover the work in your region while you’re on leave. Typically, the other business owners take any income they make from the work and contribute to the cost of the franchise fee for your territory.
- You could hand over the reins to a manager - In some cases, it may be possible to arrange for a manager to take over the day-to-day running of your franchise unit while you’re on maternity leave. Of course, this option is only available if your business is generating enough profit to pay a business manager.
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A note on paternity leave
Back in 2015, the government introduced new laws making it easier for parents to share their leave after the birth of a child. Now, a couple can take up to 50 weeks off, 37 of which are paid, and share the time between them. However, as for new mothers, the rules surrounding paternity leave for fathers are slightly different in the franchise world.
Generally, the situation for mothers and fathers is similar when it comes to franchisee rights. While male business owners are less likely to be granted long periods of parental leave than women, they do have the option of discussing a potential business break with their franchisor. By hiring a manager or allowing a neighbouring franchisee to pick up some business, fathers may be able to take time away from their franchise unit.
How to be a successful franchisee and a mum at the same time
Women make great franchisees, and the prospect of maternity leave complications shouldn’t put you off becoming your own boss. As long as you plan in advance and discuss your future time off with your franchisor, there’s no reason why you can’t take maternity leave as a franchisee.
We’ve written a number of guides for women in franchising. Why not read our tips for running a franchise unit as a working mum or our ‘mythbusters’ article, proving mothers can be successful entrepreneurs. Alternatively, find your tribe, with our guide celebrating women in franchising.
For more information on protecting your business after having a baby, see our article: How to Plan and Take Maternity Leave as a Franchisee.
You can find all these guides and many more in our article catalogue.
Alice Tuffery, Point Franchise ©