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Latest Workplace to Offer Paid Leave and Tons of Vacation

Photograph by Twenty20

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is the latest high-profile organization to announce a new and comparatively generous paid leave policies, adding a non-profit to the growing list of tech companies (and, apparently, Washington, D.C.) who say they want their employees to put family first.

Human resources officer Steven Rice announced the organization's plans on LinkedIn, saying the 1,382 employees will get "up to 52 weeks of paid time-off for both mothers and fathers during the first years of a child's birth or adoption."

The "up to" part needs a bit of further explanation, but so far the announcement is promising.

Rice also announce the group's vacation policy, which is now unlimited time off for employees—no more accrued sick days or vacation time, just a healthy and focused employee "able to take on the foundation's boldest aspiration," he writes.

The aim is for employees to be able to fully participate in their families' lives, without have to give up financial security. The work-life balance, it would appear, starts at work and not at home.

Bill Gates' Microsoft, and the online movie streaming company Netflix also recently announced expanded paid vacation and leave policies, generally good news but sometimes with a hidden downside. In the case of Netflix, its splashy (and generous) paid leave policies extended only to the relatively well-paid workers on the company's digital side. The hourly workers stuffing DVDs into red envelopes, learned after the announcement, would not be afforded the same opportunity to put family first.

Unlimited vacation time may also be a trojan horse. Studies show U.S. workers actually take less time off—not more—when the company puts paid vacation time and paid family leave out there for the taking. The question is whether this extends to new moms recovering from birth, families adjusting to the adoption of a child or younger parents now accustomed to reading about how the rest of the world treats growing families.

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