Paid Leave Is Back in the Headlines

safe_imageThe important national debate about paid leave continues. Is corporate America finally getting it?

Yesterday evening’s New York Times reports:

Netflix announced on Tuesday that it was starting an unlimited leave policy for new mothers and fathers for the first year after the birth or adoption of a child.

 As part of the new maternity and paternity policy, employees will receive their normal pay. They will be able to return to work part time or full time, and they may also return to work and then take additional time off, if needed.

 This policy far exceeds typical such leave at corporations in the United States, where there are few federal policies aimed at working parents. The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 provides employees at companies of a certain size 12 weeks of unpaid leave.

Today’s Wall Street Journal also reported on the Netflix announcement and Microsoft announced it is expanding its benefits offering. And Virgin Atlantic made its paid leave announcement earlier this year.

As Families and Work Institute’s senior director of research Kenneth Matos notes in The Wall Street Journal article:

Decoupling parental leave from disability has an added advantage—for women—by allowing mothers to stay connected to work even as they attend to family needs, said Ken Matos, senior director of research at the Families and Work Institute.

Mothers’ leave is often covered by temporary-disability policies, which mandate that they can’t work at all while on disability, or risk their claim to insurance money, he said. As a result, many women get cut off from work during their leave, which can hurt career advancement, he said.

Unlimited policies like Netflix’s sound generous, but they can be tricky for managers and workers alike. For example, research shows unlimited vacation policies result in workers’ taking less time off, because they are unsure how their requests will be perceived by managers and peers. But a strong culture helps: workers are more likely to take leave if they’re confident they won’t be punished for doing so, Mr. Matos said.

While parental leave is no vacation, all leave programs rely on employees’ “ability to declare ‘I’m taking time to do what I need to do for my family’,” he said.

Families and Work Institute’s latest research on paid leave includes Paid Time Off, Vacations, Sick Leave and Short-Term Caregiving report from the 2014 National Study of Employers.

As President Obama summed up at the White House’s April 17th event celebrating champions of change who are advocating for working families: “Helping families feel more secure is not a women’s issue. It is a national economic priority.”


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