American on-demand TV giant Netflix announced this week that employees of both sexes will be able to take unlimited parental leave during the first year after the birth or adoption of their child. The move echoes that of Virgin Management, which recently decided to allow new parents a year off on full pay, but is all the more extraordinary due to the fact it is happening the US, not traditionally renowned for generous maternity or paternity packages.
Tawni Cranz, Netflix’s Chief Talent Officer, said “We want employees to have the flexibility and confidence to balance the needs of their growing families without worrying about work or finances” when revealing the new policy, explaining that workers would still be paid at their usual rate. Staff will be able to choose their hours, take extended breaks or just not even bother to turn up for a year if they like.
Microsoft has also unveiled new parental leave plans, with mums and dads allowed 12 weeks at full pay, in addition to the mother’s maternity disability (!) leave to which they are currently entitled.
The Family and Medical Leave Act in the US allows employees of companies with more than 50 staff to take 12 weeks leave with no pay. However, only half of workers in the country qualify for this.
It constantly amazes me how badly the Americans treat their workers and, even if the UK system isn’t perfect, it is light years ahead of the majority of companies across the Atlantic. Those like Netflix and Microsoft (plus Facebook and Google) are striking a blow for parents’ rights and should be applauded – perhaps they can kickstart a change of attitude.