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Did This Company Just Rewrite the Maternity Leave Policy in the US?

It's a watershed moment for working mothers. Netflix, the streaming and home delivery movie service, announced yesterday that women can take unlimited maternity leave—at full pay—in the first year after giving birth or adopting a child.

Dads, too, will receive the same benefit.

As a part of the policy, the company's new moms and dads can choose to come back full time or part time during that first year. They can also change their minds and take additional time off.

The company already grants all its employees unlimited vacation time, so the generous maternity and paternity leave policy appears to align naturally with the company's values.

Netflix chief talent officer Tawni Cranz wrote in a company message: "[T]oday we're introducing an unlimited leave policy for new moms and dads that allows them to take off as much time as they want during the first year after a child's birth or adoption.

"We want employees to have the flexibility and confidence to balance the needs of their growing families without worrying about work or finances. Parents can return part-time, full-time, or return and then go back out as needed. We'll just keep paying them normally, eliminating the headache of switching to state or disability pay. Each employee gets to figure out what's best for them and their family, and then works with their managers for coverage during their absences."

Cranz continued, saying that the leave policy is a way for the company to support its employees, whose talent the company relies on to stay competitive.

Some are cautious about the news, citing a possible downside to unlimited maternity leave. There's evidence that employees take less time off when their company offers unlimited vacation time, as difficult as that is to imagine.

The new policy brings it on par with other developed countries' national leave policies guaranteed all families. But it vastly exceeds what have been considered other U.S. companies' generous policies, including Twitter, which was applauded for offering up to 20 weeks of paid maternity leave and 10 weeks of paid paternity leave.

Google found new moms left at half the rate they had been following maternity leave after it boosting its paid family leave policy from 12 to 18 weeks.

With Netflix's announcement, will more companies follow suit? Will the government pay attention and up the Family Medical Leave Act to require full pay beyond just 12 weeks?

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