A day after Netflix announced it would offer a year of unlimited, fully paid leave to all new parents, Microsoft announced improvements to its own parental leave policy, as well as increasing 401(k) match and adding paid holidays to the company calendar.
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At Microsoft’s blog, executive vice president of human resources Kathleen Hogan announced:
Today we provide eight weeks of fully paid maternity disability leave for new mothers, plus 12 weeks of Parental Leave for all parents of new children, of which four are paid and eight unpaid. For these parents to bring their best every day, they need time to take care of themselves and their family. In recognition of this, we are making some significant enhancements to our Parental Leave practices, effective Nov. 1, 2015.
Specifically, we’re enhancing our paid Parental Leave to 12 weeks, paid at 100 percent, for all mothers and fathers of new children. For birth mothers, this is in addition to the eight weeks of maternity disability leave they currently receive, paid at 100 percent, enabling them to now take a total of 20 weeks of fully paid leave if they choose.
Additionally, we’ll offer birth mothers an expanded opportunity to use Short-Term Disability Leave during the two weeks prior to their scheduled due date to manage the physical impact that often comes with late pregnancy and to prepare for the upcoming birth.
We will also offer flexibility for when eligible parents can take leave. Eligible parents will now have the option to take their Parental Leave either in one continuous 12-week period or split into two periods. These parents will also have the option to phase back into work on a half-time basis.
Benefits Battle of the Tech Stars
Microsoft says the announcement isn’t a response to Netflix’s expanded policy, but it’s almost certainly a response to pressures in the tech industry. To attract top talent, companies like Facebook and Google offer parental leave packages that are incredibly generous by American standards. (Keeping in mind, of course, that only 12 percent of U.S. workers who are employed in the private sector have access to paid parental leave, according to the Department of Labor.)
Business Insider recently rounded up the companies with the best parental leave policies, including tech companies like:
Netflix: One year, paid at full salary, for all new parents. Employees can also break up their time off, choosing to return to work and then take leave again, during the first year of their new parenthood. They’re also allowed to go back to work part-time.
Facebook: 17 weeks of paid leave for all new parents, which can be used at any time during the first year.
Google: 18 weeks of paid leave for birth mothers, 12 weeks for primary caregivers, and seven weeks for all other parents.
Yahoo: Eight weeks paid leave for new parents, with an additional eight weeks for birth mothers.
Where Does That Leave Everyone Else?
If you’re not lucky enough to work for a tech giant, or otherwise fall into that lucky 12 percent of private employees with access to paid leave, you probably qualify for FMLA, which offers 12 weeks of unpaid leave per 12-month period. (But not necessarily. The Family and Medical Leave Act covers only government employees and workers for private companies with 50 or more employees. In addition, they have to have been employed at the company for 12 months prior to taking FMLA.)
FMLA is unpaid, which is an obvious problem for many new parents, who are left scrambling to meet expenses during a time when bills run high. Some find that while they’re allowed to take leave, they’re financially unable to, and wind up forced to return to work before they’d prefer.
Plus, more than 40 percent of American employees work for companies that aren’t covered by the FMLA, meaning that even unpaid leave is a luxury that’s out of reach.
The bottom line is that until the U.S. mandates paid parental leave for all working parents, most will be shut out. Some tech companies offering awesome perks to a select few might help draw attention to the issue, but it won’t move the needle for most working families.
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