Bigger, better parental leave: First Netflix, now Microsoft

Techies, get your new and improved parental leave right here.

Netflix kicked off the action Tuesday by announcing that it would provide up to one year of paid leave for parents with new babies. Microsoft followed suit today: It’s increasing paid leave to 20 weeks for moms and 12 weeks for dads.

Family-related perks are a hot currency in the tech industry. Google — pioneer of free food and fun at work — and Facebook already offer about four months of parental leave, according to jobs site Glassdoor. Earlier this year, Intel added eight weeks of paid “bonding leave” for both male and female employees, on top of its existing maternity leave offering. A couple of years ago, Yahoo boosted its paid maternity leave to 16 weeks for new moms and eight weeks for new dads. Last year, Facebook and Apple announced they would pay for female employees to freeze their eggs. Zillow pays for shipping of breast milk for traveling mothers, according to Glassdoor.

The Microsoft move has been “a long time coming” and is a part of “a cultural transformation” in the past year-and-a-half, a company spokeswoman told me. (Satya Nadella was appointed CEO in February 2014.)

How important are such benefits when people are choosing where to work?

“Perks get people interested, or in the door,” said Scott Dobroski, career trends analyst for Glassdoor, in an interview. “But they’re not strong enough to keep employees around long term.”

He said annual Glassdoor surveys of about 1,000 job seekers have found that 43 percent say benefits and perks are important when choosing a job, but that number is outweighed by those who say that salary and compensation matter most (84 percent); career/growth opportunities (60 percent); and company culture (50 percent).

But Dobroski acknowledges that those numbers include other industries outside of tech, and that “tech is in a league of its own” as companies in the industry battle over talent.

Meanwhile, Netflix — which famously doesn’t have vacation limits  — is getting both kudos and flak for its latest move.

“Unlimited policies are just as much about supporting flexibility as they are about increasing the total amount of leave,” said Al Lieb, CEO of ClearSlide, through a spokeswoman. The San Francisco startup, which has a couple of hundred employees, last week doubled the amount of parental leave it offers, to 12 weeks. That’s the same amount Microsoft, which has more than 100,000 employees, is now offering.

But some say workers need limits: “This is the basic problem with ‘unlimited’ leave,” Dylan Matthews writes for Vox. “It replaces clear, predictable limits with limits imposed by vague and arbitrary social pressure to work more.”


Photo: Parental leave, please, so we can watch the babies. And maybe Thomas on Netflix. (Associated Press archives)


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