Art of Accounting: The Man Who Went on 'Maternity' Leave


One time, one of my young and very bright staff people asked me in the beginning of June if he could take off the months of July and August so he could travel by car throughout the United States. After asking him to repeat this three times, I gulped and told him he could.

I figured that if I did not tell him he could, he would simply give notice and quit. I also figured that if he returned in September and applied for a job, I would rehire him. I also realized that we have women taking off at least two months at a time to have babies and nothing terrible happens. The world (as defined by my small accounting firm) survives and moves forward.

My partners and I rationalized that nothing dreadful would happen during this two-month vacation. So we willingly allowed the staff person to fulfill a bucket list item while he was still not married and able to afford the two-month loss of salary. It also worked out pretty well for us.

Partner Insights

Because of the notice he gave us, we had time to plan. He was able to introduce another staff person to his regular clients, explain his two-month hiatus, and make sure the work would be covered during his absence. The other staff person joined us at the beginning of February. While he got busy doing tax returns, he also learned our systems.

This proves my belief that you do better hiring people out of school and training them in your systems. Of course you need structured systems that are easy to teach. Since we spent the time—during the heat of tax season—training the new staff person on our systems, he was able to step up after just five months and cover the work at our clients. My partners and I, along with our other staff, worked a little harder, but the substantial part of the work was done and we did not miss a beat advising our clients during the absence.

When the absent staff member returned, he took back most of his clients, but his substitute kept some of them. This worked well all around.

A takeaway is that having strong systems and processes makes it easier to train other people to pick up where their predecessor left off in a seamless manner. Training is an investment that pays great dividends, and this incident proved it.

P.S.: He is still with us—12 years after his “maternity” leave.

Edward Mendlowitz, CPA, is partner at WithumSmith+Brown, PC, CPAs. He is on the Accounting Today Top 100 Influential People List. He is the author of 24 books, including “How to Review Tax Returns,” co-written with Andrew D. Mendlowitz, published by and “Managing Your Tax Season, Third Edition,” published by the AICPA. Ed also writes a twice-a-week blog addressing issues that clients have at Art of Accounting is a continuing series where Ed shares autobiographical experiences with tips that he hopes can be adopted by his colleagues. Ed welcomes practice management questions and can be reached at (732) 964-9329 or

Comments (4)
Not quite like this story, but... In 1995, after having our second child in October 1994, I took 10 weeks off thanks to the FMLA. The post office didn't miss me, but I was able to work tax season for a local CPA firm. That experience was finally what I needed to get in the door at another firm's tax department in 1996. Not exactly the spirit of the FMLA, but still legit the way the law was written. Anyway, that's my paternity leave story, and I'm sticking to it...
Posted by CokeBottleKid | Tuesday, January 26 2016 at 1:50PM ET
cep073 and mobileaccountantaz Seriously- get a grip. I am so tired of the push for political correctness and whining that you had your feelings hurt. Life isn't always fair and this article isn't trying to correct fairness. It is a good example of how a firm did something outside its norm.
Posted by ecowtent | Tuesday, January 26 2016 at 11:08AM ET
This is more than a little cringe-worthy, especially in conjunction with reading the comment above. I understand this article was well intentioned, but it greatly highlights that the patriarchal mindset of the industry still is staying strong.

I do think that staff should be able to take leaves like this, but it is not akin to maternity leave. Women have to sacrifice their jobs and careers at times to have a family, and that burden still has not fallen on males. Yes, it is a choice, absolutely, but it is a choice made by two people, and over the last 50 years, only one gender's career has suffered.

Maternity/Paternity leave is a very hot topic right now, please do not down play the seriousness of the decision to young females to something as simple as taking a vacation.
Posted by cep073 | Tuesday, January 26 2016 at 10:53AM ET
Why would this be any different than women on "maternity leave"? What about the women who chose to not have children or were unable to? Funny in all my years of working in the corporate accounting work I got looked at funny when I took a sick day off (bronchitis, gall bladder surgery, mastectomy, spinal surgery) but no one blinked an eye at 6 weeks or 6 months for a maternity leave or when a woman took a sick day off to care for a sick child. When I was a child and sick my mother got a babysitter and didn't take a "sick day". In my mind women without having children got the short end of the stick by not getting paid time off for things merely because of their inability or unwillingness to have children. Even when I had step children I wasn't allowed to take any time off to care for them because after all they "weren't really mine"! (Um bull!!!!)
Posted by Mobileaccountantaz | Tuesday, January 26 2016 at 10:42AM ET
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