Tech Giants Are Expanding Parental Leave — What About the Rest of Us?

parental leave, photo credit London Scout
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Last week Netflix announced a new “unlimited” paid parental leave policy and Microsoft an expansion of their program to 12 weeks. This week Adobe announced their paid maternal leave benefits would expand to 26 weeks. What do all of these companies have in company? They’re in the tech industry.

Will the trend of increasing parental leave expand past the tech industry?

Parental Leave Adds Value for Employees

Wharton School professor, Stewart Friedman, who spoke to Business Insider, says that this trend isn’t confined to the tech industry. Rather, “we are in the midst of revolutionary change in how we think about the structure of work.”

Business Insider added that the trend is hitting Silicon Valley first because the business of recruiting and retaining talent is so cut-throat. “Professionals in their 20s and early 30s […] want to work for a company that will allow them to spend time with their children to a degree that their parents were unable to, and factor benefits more heavily than preceding generations when making career decisions.”

At Adobe, the expansion of maternity leave wasn’t the only announcement. They’re also offering up to 4 weeks paid leave to care for sick family members and 16 weeks of parental leave. This is a huge jump from its previous policy of 9 weeks maternity, 2 weeks for adoption leave, and according to Emily Peck at HuffPo, it’s evidence of a Adobe’s deep commitment to expanding leave, and the broader movement to do the same.

Who’s Left Out of Parental Leave Packages?

But for all that millennials in tech are pushing for a better work-life balance, and often winning, these policies often exclude non-salaried or low-pay workers. Small businesses that struggle to make payroll might find the trend of employers paying for extended leave alarming. And while businesses with 50 or more employees must provide 12 weeks unpaid leave, only 12% offer paid leave. Another Business Insider piece points outthat

“According to a 2012 report from the US Department of Labor on family and medical leave, about 15% of people who were not paid or who received partial pay while on leave turned to public assistance for help. About 60% of workers who took this leave reported it was difficult making ends meet, and almost half reported they would have taken longer leave if more pay had been available.”

At Netflix, that generous unlimited parental leave policy doesn’t extend to employees working in customer service or distribution.

No doubt it’s a huge step forward, but in an employment landscape where millions of Americans are working part-time, freelance, or in other precarious situations, change at the corporate level may not be trickling down fast enough.


Photo credit: London Scout at Unsplash

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  1. Great article Megan. It would be amazing if Maternity/Parental Leave insurance became an election issue in 2016. Canada’s insurance pays $524 a week maximum for up to 52 weeks.


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