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Netflix introduces ‘unlimited’ paid parental leave; reactions to policy mixed



Netflix announced last week that it will now allow employees to take unlimited maternity or paternity leave during the first year after their child’s birth or adoption.


Under the new policy, Netflix employees can take off however long they need during their child’s first year of life. They can return on a full- or part-time basis, and even take subsequent time off later in the year if needed. Netflix will “keep paying them normally,” eliminating the hassle of having to switch to disability leave, the company says.


Fortune calls the move “game-changing,” and in some respects it is, especially considering the United States’ less-than stellar ranking when it comes to parental leave policies. According to a 2012 Pew Report, the U.S. ranked last out of 37 countries when examining government-supported time off for new parents.


Also, fathers are included in Netflix’s new policy.


Most U.S. workers have no access to paid paternity leave at all. A recent study by the U.S. Department of Labor found that fewer employers offer paid parental leave for men than for women, and also that fewer men report receiving paid parental leave than women. And while maternity leave is a more common offering by companies, federal law requires employers give women only 12 weeks of unpaid, protected leave.


Up to a year of leave with full pay sounds outstanding — but only in theory, others argue. The question on the minds of many following the announcement is whether the new policy will actually work, and if it will do more harm than good to both the employee and the company.


The Washington Post said the policy is “probably a bad idea for you company.” Unless the culture really supports it, the Post writes, employees won’t know how to react and may even end up taking off less time than they otherwise would.


“Most people need some parameters around leave to have that ‘permission’ to take what they need,” Carol Sladek, who leads work-life consulting at Aon Hewitt, told the Post. “Without those parameters, it’s a lot more difficult for employees, managers and the corporate culture to be accepting.”


Time writes that the policy might actually “make things worse for women.” Offering an unlimited leave policy in the first year to new moms and dads means the remaining employees who don’t fit the bill will be left to pick up the slack, writes Suzanne Venker of Time. This will likely, in turn, strain relations among co-workers and make the workplace environment less effective.


She also writes that the longer women stay away from work, the more it may affect their desire to return.


Business Insider also was skeptical. Historically, unlimited paid time off policies don’t work, the article states, and when people do take advantage of such policies, their co-workers resent them. Still, the news site said that, despite the plan’s flaws, the basic problem Netflix is trying to address is real: People have lives outside work, and national policy is historically bad at dealing with that.



YES OR NO: Is Netflix’s new unlimited parental leave policy a good idea?


While some are calling Netflix’s new parental leave policy — one that allows employees to take off however long they feel they need during their child’s first year of life, with pay — is game-changing, saying it sets a new precedent for companies in a nation that’s historically bad at providing similar benefits to working parents.


But others claim the policy will do more harm than good. Some claim unlimited paid time off policies don’t work, and only succeed in making those who take advantage of it resented among their co-workers. Others say women are less likely to return to work if they stay away longer. Others say it might just be too difficult for companies to adapt to such a lax policy.

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