Yesterday, Netflix made a revolutionary announcement for families everywhere–at least, revolutionary for the United States. Tawni Cranz, Netflix’s Chief Talent Officer, stated the company is introducing “an unlimited leave policy for new moms and dads that allows them to take off as much time as they want during the first year after a child’s birth or adoption.”
It is no secret that many corporations in the United States have dismal maternity/paternity and childcare benefits, as there are few federal policies aimed to help families; this leaves many working parents without a proper support system. As of now, the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 provides employees at companies of a certain size 12 weeks of unpaid leave; a whopping 87% of workers do not have access to paid leave.
Why the sudden change? Cranz further states:
Experience shows people perform better at work when they’re not worrying about home. This new policy, combined with our unlimited time off, allows employees to be supported during the changes in their lives and return to work more focused and dedicated.
We support that, wholeheartedly. As part of their new policy, Netflix employees will also receive their normal pay, as well as the choice to return to work part time or full time, as opposed to being locked within a system, only to be potentially forced out if they can’t be flexible. Employees now also have the option to work and then take additional time off, if needed.
Of course, it is important to note that Netflix is technically not offering “unlimited” maternity and paternity leave as their (and now, our) headline suggests. The unlimited time is actually limited to the “first year after a child’s birth or adoption.” While we aren’t kvetching just to be contrarian, the initial statement is a little misleading. Consequently, will parents feel pressured not take the allocated time, unintentionally causing a sense of competition among other employees for fear of falling behind or looking opportunistic?
Netflix isn’t the first company to offer better benefits. In general, the Silicon Valley and San Francisco tech companies have been progressively friendlier and more supportive of family rights. For example, Twitter offers 20 weeks of paid leave, whereas Facebook offers four months along with $4,000 for each new child.