After a New York Times investigation that found some Amazon workers were critical of the company's work culture and benefits, Amazon has announced that it is increasing its maternity leave to as much as 20 weeks of paid time off for moms of new-born babies. The new policy puts Amazon in the same class as a number of companies that have expanded benefits to keep hard-to-find technical talent.
Rachel Lerman of The Seattle Times says the changes will be made effective on Jan. 1 and will include mothers with babies born or adopted after Oct. 1. Either parent who has worked at Amazon for a year or more will get six weeks of paid time off. Added to the ten weeks moms receive, plus four weeks of medical leave some moms are qualified to receive, there will be moms who now have up to 20 weeks of paid leave.
The change represents the first time the company has offered fathers paid time off.
Amazon also introduced a "leave share program" allowing employees to give all or part of the six-week paid time off to a spouse or partner who does not have the benefit through his or her work. An Amazon employee could come back to work and Amazon would pay his or her spouse to stay at home with the child.
Recently, Netflix decided to give employees up to a year of paid time off after the birth or adoption of a child. Microsoft followed suit by adding eight weeks of paid leave for new moms and dads.
An October Glassdoor.com survey found that employees would rather get additional benefits than a raise in pay.
Amazon still has a way to go since Microsoft offers at least 12 weeks for either parent and Google has been offering 12 weeks to 22 weeks for several years.
Jena McGregor, writing for The Washington Post, reports that Bruce Elliott, the manager of compensation and benefits for the Society for Human Resource Management, says this is the first time he has heard of a privilege like the "leave share program." He calls it "an unusual twist."
Another new feature is the "ramp back" idea designed to allow birth mothers and primary caregivers ease back into work over a period of eight weeks. The moms or dads can work either half-time or three-quarter time during their first eight weeks back at work.
Only 12% of US private sector workers have this type of family leave because, reports the Department of Labor, the large companies with plenty of capital and an insatiable demand for skilled workers must have these kinds of perks. Fortune's Kristen Bellstrom says unlike Netflix, which caught flak for not extending its generous leave policies to its lower-skilled workers, Amazon is extending its new benefits to all full-time employees, including the company's distribution centers' employees.
As far as the allegations of a punishing work culture, Amazon has disputed many of the charges leveled at it by the article in the Seattle Times. Amazon says compensation policies are reviewed on an annual basis and began the new leave policy earlier this year.