Netflix blazes a trail of equality with unlimited maternity and paternity leave

August 5th, 2015

Babies are awesome. Besides carrying your DNA imprint for another generation, they’ll usually stick around long enough to ease you gently into that good night. But they can also be disruptive as hell, especially if you’re a woman working in the US tech industry — an industry that heavily skews male in a country with the worst family leave protections in the entire developed world.

Although it sounds like a paradox, giving men more time off actually benefits women in the workplace. See, paid maternity leave is often measured in weeks or months, while paid paternity can be as little as a few days — or nothing. Companies that offer family leave allowances to both parents equally set the expectation that fathers will take off just as much time as their child-bearing peers. A 2014 study already showed that if paternity time is paid, men will take it.

The result is greater gender equality at work. Hiring managers and project leads won’t be inclined to discriminate against women out of fear they’ll eventually request maternity leave because both sexes risk abandoning the company during a crucial product delivery phase.

That’s what makes the announcement of Netflix’s unlimited (for the first year) paid maternity and paternity policy (for birth and adoption) so significant. It's equal, it's generous, and it's easy:

"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."

Tech companies already promote some of the most progressive parental leave policies in the US. The Netflix announcement raises the bar for Google, Facebook, Apple and others to match.

Because some deliveries are more precious than others.


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