Netflix’s New Parental Leave Policy Is a Game Changer

Image Source: Thinkstock
Image Source: Thinkstock

Until recently, Silicon Valley giants like Facebook and Google seemed to have cornered the market on generous parental leave policies in the U.S., with the former offering about four months of paid leave to both parents and the latter providing 18 weeks of paid leave to birth mothers and all new parents (including fathers and adoptive parents) are eligible for 12 weeks of paid leave.

But a different tech company has just raised the bar for everyone: Netflix is offering all new parents unlimited time off during the first year of a child’s life or the first year following his or her adoption.

I’ll repeat that because it’s worth repeating: unlimited time off for a year.

Netflix Chief Talent Officer Tawni Cranz explained the new policy on the company’s blog, writing:

“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 said that employees perform better at work when they’re not worrying about life at home. Accordingly, the new policy “allows employees to be supported during the changes in their lives and return to work more focused and dedicated,” she wrote.

In other words, Netflix is being good to its employees because they believe it’s good for business.

If only other companies felt the same way.

As a big supporter of paid parental leave, I’m trying not to get too giddy about the Netflix news and this is why: the tech sector just isn’t representative of the U.S. corporate landscape as a whole, at least not when it comes to maternity and paternity leave.

The Netflixes and Googles and Facebooks of our country institute these generous policies because they are in a mad race for talent — Netflix included a sentence about “competing for … the most talented individuals” in its announcement — and offering paid leave is one way to bring highly skilled workers into the fold.

The gender disparity in tech, with male employees far outnumbering their female peers, also plays into this, with companies hoping that parental leave will help them recruit more female software developers, programmers, and the like.

We’re not seeing the same zealous embrace of paid leave in other industries. There are a handful of companies in other sectors that also offer generous amounts of paid parental leave — check out roundups here and here — but they’re far from the norm. Just 12% of American workers have access to paid leave, Bloomberg Business reported earlier this year.

Will it ever change? Some believe it’ll take government intervention, with a federal policy that would establish paid parental leave at companies across the board. It’s the sort of change that would finally bring the U.S. in line with the 99% of economically advanced countries (and most other countries) that offer, at the very least, paid maternity leave for new moms.

Congress, so far, hasn’t budged but advocates have hope for the next presidential election. Debra Ness, of the National Partnership for Women and Families, declared to Bloomberg that new parents are more riled up about the issue than ever and that the“sleeping giant is waking up.”

It’s about time he does. Leave the sleeping to the babies, Big Guy. You’ve got important work to do.

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