Microsoft, Netflix lauded for extended parental leave policies

The two companies have gotten mostly great PR out of the moves, though a few vocal critics are speaking up, too.

Microsoft and Netflix are learning that enhancing paid leave for new parents is not just good policy—it’s good PR. However, the moves come with their share of criticism.

Netflix made its announcement on Tuesday in a blog post. Chief talent officer Tawni Cranz writes:

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.

Microsoft followed suit by enhancing its own parental leave policy. Kathleen Hogan, Microsoft’s VP of human resources, writes:

… we’re enhancing our paid Parental Leave to 12 weeks, paid at 100 percent, for all mothers and fathers of new children. For birth mothers, this is in addition to the eight weeks of maternity disability leave they currently receive, paid at 100 percent, enabling them to now take a total of 20 weeks of fully paid leave if they choose.

Reception for both companies has been overwhelmingly positive among the public. The Netflix move in particular was labeled “trail-blazing,” and “game-changing.”

A few vocal critics have questioned whether increased paid leave for new parents will work, however.

“But,” writes Jena McGregor for The Washington Post, “companies should think twice before playing copy cat when it comes to parental leave. An unlimited policy sounds great in theory. Unless the culture really supports it, however, employees won’t know how to react and may even end up taking off less time than they otherwise would.”

Time offered another reason why it may not be a great idea:

There are several problems with this new policy. First, 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. This will likely, in turn, strain relations among co-workers and make the workplace environment less effective.

Still, the overwhelming majority of folks online are applauding both of these companies, so it’s clearly good public relations. And I don’t think either company made these moves strictly to garner positive headlines. It marks a real culture shift, and begins to put pressure on other companies that want to recruit and retain top talent.

What do you think? Is this a smart move for both companies, or do you think that it could have deleterious effects in the long term?

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