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Netflix’s newest blockbuster: Up to a year of paid parental leave

August 5, 2015 04:27 PM
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(Bloomberg)—Netflix Inc., which lets employees take as much vacation as they want, is now offering as much as one year of paid time off to new mothers and fathers in what’s probably the most generous parental leave policy in the U.S.

New parents can be away from the office for as many days as they choose in the first 12 months after a child’s birth or adoption, Netflix said Tuesday in a blog post. The policy sets it far apart from the vast majority of U.S. employers, even in the technology industry, which is famous for worker perks. At Facebook Inc., mothers and fathers get four months paid leave, plus $4,000 in “baby cash,” while at Google Inc. it’s up to 18 weeks.

Netflix, No. 6 in the Internet Retailer 2015 Top 500 Guide, “raises the bar for other companies—it really sets a whole new bar,” said J. Veronica Biggins, managing director at Diversified Search, an executive recruiter in Philadelphia, and a director at Southwest Airlines Co.

Microsoft Corp. (No. 93), in a blog post Wednesday, said it will offer 12 weeks of paid time off to all new parents, improving its policy as the issues of gender equity and family balance gain greater prominence in the technology industry. Combined with the previously available leave of eight weeks for maternity disability, that means new mothers can now take a total of 20 weeks of leave fully paid, the company said.

The workforce in the technology industry remains largely white and male. While Silicon Valley has been under pressure to diversify, the treatment of women has been a particularly significant issue in the aftermath of former partner Ellen Pao’s sex-bias case against venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

Previously, Microsoft had offered the eight weeks disability for mothers, plus 12 weeks of parental leave with four weeks paid and eight unpaid. The Redmond, Wash.-based company also announced an increased 401(k) retirement-plan matching program and paid holidays for Martin Luther King Day and Presidents Day in the U.S.

Only 12% of U.S. private-sector employees have access to any paid family leave through their jobs, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The U.S. is the only nation in the developed world that doesn’t mandate maternity leave with pay.

In industries competing for talent—particularly female talent—parental leave is increasingly a key recruiting tool, said Elaine Eisenman, dean of executive education at Babson College. “It’s no longer a nice thing to have, it’s a requirement if you want to keep talented women.”

‘Growing recognition’

The Netflix post called the policy part of a culture that gives workers “the freedom to make their own decisions along with the accompanying responsibility.”

Kenneth Matos, senior director of research at the Family and Work Institute, said that hints at a downside for some. “When people have unlimited time off,” Matos said, “they actually tend to take less.”

CEO Reed Hastings drew attention for the company’s unlimited vacation policy, introduced in 2004; others in Silicon Valley, including Uber Technologies Inc. and Reddit Inc. offer the same.

Now he’s at the forefront of “a growing recognition that people are constructing their careers with family as a major component,” Matos said, with a majority of children being raised by parents who both work outside the home.

In the post, attributed to Tawni Cranz, the video-streaming service’s chief talent officer, Netflix said that new “parents can return part-time, full-time or return and then go back out as needed.”

 

Google moms

President Barack Obama in January directed federal agencies to offer six weeks of paid leave to their employees when they become new parents as part of a broader push to extend parental leave for U.S. workers.

Nestle SA, Johnson & Johnson, Blackstone Group LP and Vodafone Group Plc expanded their benefits for new mothers and fathers this year, though none made them unlimited.

After it increased paid maternity leave to 18 weeks from 12 in 2007, fewer returning moms left the company, Google said.

 

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