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Netflix ups employee-retention ante with unlimited first-year maternity-paternity leave
Netflix announces policy to expand paid maternity-paternity leave to meet employee needs during baby's first year. - photo by Lois M Collins
Netflix announced this week that it is changing its maternity/paternity leave policy to give new parents as much paid time off as they need during the first year after a baby is born or adopted. The new policy even allows the flexibility to come and go as needed.

The move came as Microsoft was also updating its maternal/paternal leave policy. USA Today reported that Microsoft will extend paid leave for moms and dads to 12 weeks, with the option of eight more in the form of paid "maternity disability leave."

In a statement released Wednesday, Microsoft said birth mothers could use leave two weeks before their scheduled due dates, effective Nov. 1.

Fortune referred to Netflix's new policy as a "game changer."

"Today were introducing 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 childs birth or adoption," wrote chief talent officer Tawni Cranz on the Netflix blog.

"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. Well just keep paying them normally, eliminating the headache of switching to state or disability pay. Each employee gets to figure out whats best for them and their family, and then works with their managers for coverage during their absences." It's an unusual policy among American corporations, but not a huge stretch for Netflix, according to Business Insider. "Netflix already has unlimited time off, so this change doesnt mark a substantial shift in policy as much as it shows a willingness of the company to be kid friendly. Netflix says it wants to compete for the best workers, and is acknowledging sometimes these workers are parents." Asked whether such wide-open policies create risk of abuse by employees, an expert from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), Bruce Elliott, told Business Insider it's not really an issue. "They work really well in high-performance organizations." The New York Times said tech companies are among the "most progressive" when it comes to leave policies. "At the high end is Twitter, which offers up to 20 weeks of paid maternity leave and 10 weeks of paid paternity leave. Facebook offers four months of paid leave for both new mothers and fathers, as well as $4,000 for each new child born or adopted. It also subsidizes day care and programs for adoption, egg freezing or surrogate parenting and sperm donation programs," the article said. A Google spokeswoman told the newspaper that after it increased its paid leave from 12 to 18 months, the number of returning mothers who chose to leave the company dropped by half. The Fortune article also pointed out potential issues with generous leave policies: "That can be great for employees taking long trips, but it also means employees have to work with their managers and teams ahead of time to make sure their absence wont jeopardize a project or deadline. Extended absences can also strain workplace relations."
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