by Ana Pérez
You have probably read this summer that Netflix, the American provider of Internet streaming media, has introduced an unlimited leave policy for new moms and dads that allows them to take off as much time as they want during the first year after a child’s birth or adoption.
“We want employees to have the flexibility and confidence to balance the needs of their growing families without worrying about work or finances. Parents can return part-time, full-time, or return and then go back out as needed. We’ll just keep paying them normally, eliminating the headache of switching to state or disability pay. Each employee gets to figure out what’s best for them and their family, and then works with their managers for coverage during their absences”, announced Tawni Cranz, Netflix’s Chief Talent Officer.
Why this is so important in the U.S. context?
Working parents in the U.S. are faced with a difficult reality from the moment their babies are born. New mothers can take 12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act and taking a parental leave is unusual.
Keeping this situation in mind, we can conclude that Netflix is giving a revolutionary perk, with the company showing both current and potential employees how much it cares. The company suggests parents can come back to the office either part or full time, organizing their time as they wish during the first year. All paid of course.
Yahoo doubled its maternity and paternity leave in 2013 to make it more competitive with Facebook and Google. We are witnessing a shift in the working culture. Today, most workers would choose a better work-life balance over a salary rise. This is something that we have already noticed in the last years in Europe, and Netflix is following this trend. It’s a smart strategy: the company wants to keep the best talents on board.
I believe this is a fantastic initiative for at least, three reasons. First, it lowers gender discrimination in the recruitment process, where young women still face discrimination because of their potential motherhood and the role of primary carer they take later on. Second, it gives men a chance to get involved very early and actually frees up women to work and reducing the gender pay gap and subsequent gender pension gap. According to the Institute for Labor Market Policy in Sweden, a mother’s future earnings is increased by 7% every month the father stays on parental leave. And third, it also lowers the risk of poverty for the most vulnerable families such as single parents and large families.
Even though I applaud Netflix for this initiative for new parents, it is important to keep in mind that, as we have been advocating at COFACE, reconciliation policies should be available to all workers regardless of the age of their children, since families’ needs for flexibility do not end after the first year after a child’s birth or adoption. Young children and teens may also need the attention and time of their parents during major life transitions, for which no “leave” is generally foreseen, apart from the regular paid vacation. One possible solution could be to complement the temporary leaves for both parents with a system of flexible time arrangement allowing them to continue their professional activity.
We are witnessing today significant changes in the way we work, collaborate and communicate. And this is precisely why we need a paradigm shift at work, as well as a family-friendly legal and policy environment.