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Netflix's announcement yesterday that they will offer up to one year of unlimited maternity and paternity benefits is already making things better for moms- and dads-to-be in other workplaces. Today, Microsoft announced that they would add an additional eight weeks of paid leave for all of that company's new parents.
The announcements are yet another sign that the tide is slowly turning in favor of parent leave policies that support families. It seems companies are finally realizing what parents have known all along—it makes sense to let parents take leave after the birth of a child since parents are less likely to leave their jobs if they are allowed proper time to bond with their baby.
This issue has been at the forefront for many Americans. President Obama reminded us in his State of the Union address in January that the U.S. is the only developed country that does not mandate paid maternity leave for all. Currently, paid leave benefits vary across states and among workplaces. Anyone who has tried to navigate the various federal and state disability laws can tell you that figuring out exactly how much leave you are eligible is time-consuming, confusing and ultimately disappointing. Figuring out if your state offers paid disability is equally confusing and not all human resources departments are equipped to help women navigate the process.
Decisions around childcare and maternity leave are some of the hardest decisions new parents have to make, and often mothers must return to work before they are ready to do so because they cannot afford to take unpaid leave.
As Netflix chief talent officer Tawni Cranz wrote in the company-wide announcement, having parental leave that is paid by the employer simplifies the process for families.
The federal government also recently expanded benefits, but nowhere on the level of the generous year that Netflix has made available. In fact, they're quite minimal. Federal employees would be granted six weeks of paid parental leave, but, as anyone who has had a baby can tell you, six weeks is not enough time to recover from the physical and emotional upheaval of having a baby. It takes weeks to establish feeding patterns, and you have inconsistent sleep for months after your baby is born. Nonetheless, it's something and a significant step in the right direction.
Netflix is following the trend of some other tech companies who offer new parents relatively generous paid leave. Facebook employees can now take four months off following the birth or adoption of a child. At Apple, employees can take up to 14 weeks of paid leave. Twitter offers 20 weeks for mothers and 10 weeks for fathers. Google offers parents 18 weeks of paid leave and it's boosted retention considerably. According to You Tube CEO, Susan Wojiciki, "The rate at which new moms left Google fell by 50% after it increased paid maternity leave from 12 to 18 weeks in 2007. Offering paid maternity leave at Google, YouTube's parent, has helped the company avoid costly turnover and retain skilled employees."
In an ideal world, we would not have to use profit as a motivator to implement policies that help parents keep their sanity and bond with their children, but we hope that this argument compels companies across sectors to expand benefits for new parents. Decisions around childcare and maternity leave are some of the hardest decisions new parents have to make, and often mothers must return to work before they are ready to do so because they cannot afford to take unpaid leave.
While tech companies are leading the way they represent a small portion of employers, we know that families who are already economically vulnerable suffer the most from lack of paid leave and lack of access to affordable childcare.
The Mom.me community weighed in on their employers' leave policies—if they even existed. A majority appeared to cobble together what they could of disability or vacation and sick leave.
While we applaud companies that are expanding benefits, we need federal and state laws that protect pregnant mothers and their families and join the many other countries that offer substantial and paid maternity leave for everyone.