On Tuesday, Netflix announced it would start offering unlimited maternity and paternity leave for its employees. Both biological and adoptive parents now have the option of taking up to a paid year off after having a child, with the option of coming back part-time, if they wish to do so.
Netflix chief talent officer Tawni Cranz explained the thought process behind the company’s decision on its blog: “We want employees to have the flexibility and confidence to balance the needs of their growing families without worrying about work or finances,” she wrote. “Experience shows people perform better at work when they’re not worrying about home.” The streaming giant was already known for providing generous work benefits, such as unlimited vacation time, but its unlimited parental paid leave policy is downright groundbreaking.
As of now, the U.S. is still the only developed country that does not legally mandate new parents get any paid time off; federal law only requires employees be able to take up to twelve weeks unpaid. And while many employers do offer some form of paid leave, tech corporations, like Netflix, are currently providing the greatest amount of salaried time off to new parents.
In the past few years, Silicon Valley has been leading the charge in creating progressive family policies and has become known for offering unique perks to better manage the work-life balance. Facebook, for example, provides $ 4,000 in “baby cash” to new parents. Microsoft announced this week it’s letting expecting moms leave the office two weeks before they’re due. Meanwhile, IBM just announced it will provide breastfeeding moms the option to express-ship pumped milk back home while they’re traveling for work.
The tech sector is even more forward-thinking when it comes to paid paternity time off. Twitter offers new dads ten weeks off, while Google, Pinterest, and Kickstarter give up to twelve. The most generous companies are Facebook, Instagram, and Reddit, which all offer up to seventeen weeks off to both men and women who have a new baby. Yahoo and Apple offer lower amounts of time: eight and six weeks, respectively. But that’s still way more than the national average. A study conducted by Boston College’s Center for Work and Family found that 76 percent of fathers went back to work after one week or less and 96 percent after two weeks or less.
But are tech dads really taking all—or any—of that time off? Yahoo senior director of product management Fernando Delgado previously worked at Google when both of his daughters were born. At the time, Google granted new fathers seven weeks off. “When each of them was born, I took off two weeks immediately,” he said. “Then after that, I would take a week off every four weeks or so, until I used up all of my paternity leave.” During his time at home, he helped his wife adjust to their new life with a baby, and aside from checking emails occasionally, he admits he disconnected from work quite easily.
Paternity leave not only provides new dads with valuable bonding time with their children, but it also relieves some of the pressure placed on women to put their careers on hold in order to care for a newborn baby. While many men in the workforce are still affected by the stigma of paternity leave, according to Delgado, it’s not a problem in Silicon Valley. “The majority of my friends who work in tech and had kids took all of their paternity leave time off,” he explained. “Most of them did the same thing I did—[they took] two weeks and then continued taking time throughout that first year.”
One of the strongest arguments against passing federal paid parental leave is that it might end up hurting business owners, but with huge new IPOs regularly announced and Google’s stock price climbing yearly, perhaps it’s time to reconsider. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Susan Wojcicki, the CEO of YouTube, which is owned by Google, said business and employee satisfaction improved after Google increased paid maternity leave from twelve weeks to eighteen, and paid paternity leave from seven to twelve weeks. The turnover rates for new moms also dropped by 50 percent.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently announced that he and his wife Priscilla Chan are expecting a child later this year. It’ll be interesting to see how much time he’ll take off out of the seventeen weeks that Facebook grants. If he does decide to take a considerable amount of leave, perhaps it’ll serve as an aspirational example for working dads around the country.
The post Why Silicon Valley’s Paid Leave Policies Need to Go Viral appeared first on Vogue.
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