New Moms Luck Out

Paid leave at Netflix puts other companies on notice

by Deirdre Reilly | Updated 07 Aug 2015 at 7:17 AM

Life is looking pretty sweet if you are expecting a child and are employed at Netfix, the streaming-video service.

Netflix, which characterizes its maternity policy as “unlimited,” says the company’s success “hinges on us competing for and keeping the most talented individuals in their field.”

To that end, it has rolled out impressive new maternity leave guidelines for both moms and dads, birth parents and adoptive parents.

This comes as good news for parents who have endured the emotional roller coaster of driving away from their newborns because they had to get to work after just having a child.

One New York-based mother of two recalls her feelings of upheaval and distress after her own children were born and she had to get back to the office.

“Leaving both my boys when they were just three months old and returning to work will always be one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do in my life,” she says. “And I know even then I had it better than most. If you ever saw a mother crying her eyes out in the car on the highway as she drove to work, that was me. Did I need to work? Yes. Did I want to work? Yes.”

She adds, “But I would have strongly preferred to spend more time with my sons when they were so tiny and dependent on me and when we were bonding, and then eased back into my work life a little more naturally.”

U.S. federal law requires employers of a certain size to provide at least 12 weeks of unpaid time off.

Netflix, however, is going way beyond that, offering new parents the option to return part-time or full-time after having a child. An employee can also return to work after maternity leave, and decide to go back out on leave. And after the first year of a child’s birth or adoption, Netfix will pay workers their normal wage.

A male sales representative for a large U.S. paper company says, “I never had more than two work days in a row with my sons after each was born. I lived for the weekends, when I could just be with my new baby. I know I would have loved a policy like the one Netflix has put into place, and it would have hands-down made me a better, more focused, and appreciative employee when I returned.” He laughed. “Are they still hiring?”

Other industry leaders are adopting more flexible, generous maternity packages. Google now offers an 18-week paid leave policy, and Facebook offers both four months of paid leave and $4000 for each newborn or adopted child.

Microsoft on Wednesday also announced a new parental-leave structure. Birth mothers get eight weeks of paid maternity disability leave on top of their offering of 12 weeks paid maternity leave for both moms and dads.

Netflix is generous to employees in the face of success: The company’s stock price reached an all-time high on Wednesday of $129.29 a share.

Says Netflix, in a blog post from chief talent officer Tawni Cruz, “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,”

“It makes me want to continue my subscription just hearing about this,” the male sales representative told LifeZette.

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