Women have often been told that they ‘can’t have it all,’ and many struggle to find the balance between their career and raising a family. In the United States, companies give little maternity leave flexibility compared to European countries, and expect long hours each week in order to excel. However, two major corporations have taken a step to give mothers (and fathers) a chance to ‘have it all’.
Microsoft and Netflix both announced new policies for paternal leave. Microsoft will allow new parents an additional eight weeks of paid time off. Meanwhile, Netflix gives parents a generous offer to take as much paid leave as needed during the first year of birth or adoption of a child, writes Nick Wingfield for New York Times.
The moves by Netflix and Microsoft could be a sign of similar changes to come at other companies. Because the industry is so competitive and changing so fast, a move by one company can quickly lead to a wave of similar actions among its competitors.
These new maternity and paternity leave policies make those of similar tech giants look inadequate. Google currently offers 18 weeks of paid maternity leave and Facebook offers four months to new mothers and fathers. Both Reddit and Instagram give new parents 17 weeks.
Some speculate the move helps companies keep up with the needs of a younger workforce, writes Jim Axelrod for CBS News.
“I think that there are some generational differences,” Carol Sladek, a benefits consultant with 29 years of human resource experience says. “I think certainly we have all heard about millennials and how they are approaching the workforce differently.”
Smart employers will all start expanding on maternity and paternity benefits if they want to stay competitive in attracting a young, talented workforce, writes Chris Nguyen for ABC News.
While these companies are earning praise for their move to better their employees’ quality of life, it’s a small segment of the workforce; these employees are part of only 12% who work for private companies and get offered paid time off. The United States is the only western, developed country that does not require companies to offer paid maternity leave.
Sarah Jane Glynn, Director of Women’s Economic Policy at the Center for American Progress, has been tracking leave policies for the past four years and believes that the best policy for all workers would be a government-run program of paid leave, writes Susan Adams for Forbes.
Currently, the Family and Medical Leave Act mandates 12 weeks of leave to care for a child or family member, but that is unpaid leave and it only applies to companies that have over 50 employees.
Netflix and Microsoft have made a move to benefit their employees that takes pressure off of the government to help, but Glynn points out that:
“It’s unrealistic to expect a small or medium-sized business to provide generous paid leave entirely on their own.”