Why Silicon Valley’s Paid Leave Policies Need to Go Viral

By Patricia Garcia 

On Tuesday, Netflix announced it would start offering unlimited maternity and paternity leave for its employees. Both biological and adoptive parents now have the option of taking up to a paid year off after having a child, with the option of coming back part-time, if they wish to do so.

Netflix chief talent officer Tawni Cranz explained the thought process behind the company’s decision on its blog: "We want employees to have the flexibility and confidence to balance the needs of their growing families without worrying about work or finances," she wrote. "Experience shows people perform better at work when they’re not worrying about home." The streaming giant was already known for providing generous work benefits, such as unlimited vacation time, but its unlimited parental paid leave policy is downright groundbreaking.

As of now, the U.S. is still the only developed country that does not legally mandate new parents get any paid time off; federal law only requires employees be able to take up to twelve weeks unpaid. And while many employers do offer some form of paid leave, tech corporations, like Netflix, are currently providing the greatest amount of salaried time off to new parents.

In the past few years, Silicon Valley has been leading the charge in creating progressive family policies and has become known for offering unique perks to better manage the work-life balance. Facebook, for example, provides $4,000 in "baby cash" to new parents. Microsoft announced this week it's letting expecting moms leave the office two weeks before they're due. Meanwhile, IBM just announced it will provide breastfeeding moms the option to express-ship pumped milk back home while they're traveling for work.

The tech sector is even more forward-thinking when it comes to paid paternity time off. Twitter offers new dads ten weeks off, while Google, Pinterest, and Kickstartergive up to twelve. The most generous companies are Facebook, Instagram, and Reddit, which all offer up to seventeen weeks off to both men and women who have a new baby. Yahoo and Apple offer lower amounts of time: eight and six weeks, respectively. But that’s still way more than the national average. A study conducted by Boston College's Center for Work and Family found that 76 percent of fathers went back to work after one week or less and 96 percent after two weeks or less.

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