First Netflix, now Microsoft bumps up parental leave

QUALITY TIME: From Nov 1, US-based workers at tech giant Microsoft will enjoy 12 weeks' paid parental leave, up from four.


    Aug 07, 2015

    First Netflix, now Microsoft bumps up parental leave


    MICROSOFT on Wednesday announced an expanded parental leave policy for its United States-based employees, a day after a similar move by streaming television giant Netflix.

    The tech giant said that from Nov 1, it would offer full pay for 12 weeks to new mothers and fathers, plus eight additional weeks of maternity disability, bringing the total for mothers to 20 weeks.

    Until now, Microsoft had offered four weeks' paid and eight weeks' unpaid time off for new parents in addition to maternity disability.

    Said Microsoft vice-president for human resources Kathleen Hogan in a blog post: "As we ask our employees to bring their A-game to work every day to achieve our mission, we believe it's our responsibility to create an environment where people can do their best work. A key component of this is supporting our employees with benefits that matter most to them."

    Microsoft said it was adding two new paid holidays, bringing the total to 12, including two floating holidays. It also is boosting the company contribution for its retirement saving plan, known as 401k.

    The new policy affects some 60,000 US-based Microsoft employees. Ms Hogan said that outside the US, "we will continue to review what's offered in each country and work to align to our global benefits philosophy and the local regulations and dynamics in each market".

    The move comes a day after Netflix announced it is offering up to one year of paid parental leave to both male and female employees after the birth of a child.

    Netflix said the move was aimed at boosting job satisfaction and retaining top talent.

    "We want employees to have the flexibility and confidence to balance the needs of their growing families without worrying about work or finances," Tawni Cranz from Netflix said late on Tuesday.

    "Parents can return part-time, full-time or return and then go back out as needed. We'll just keep paying them normally," Ms Cranz said.

    The Netflix policy far exceeds typical arrangements at large US corporations. The national norm averages about 30 days of paid leave, according to Mary Tavarozzi, a senior consultant with benefit consultant group Towers Watson.

    While it could push some companies to follow in its footsteps, for others it will not be possible.

    "We've seen many employers expanding their amount of paid leave available, but it would be a small number of industries with a relatively small-to-medium size population that could afford to do something as extensive as Netflix," said Ms Tavarozzi.

    According to a Towers Watson survey, adequate paid time off is the third-most important issue for employees, behind compensation and medical coverage.

    One issue with parental leave programmes is creating an environment in which employees feel comfortable taking the time offered, said Rich Fuerstenberg, a senior partner at Mercer. "Companies are moving away from hard and fast rules to whatever the employee and supervisor agree to is fine," he said.

    The US Family and Medical Leave Act entitles employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off annually in the event of a birth, adoption or arrival of a foster child.

    According to a 2013 report from the Pew Research Centre, Estonia offers the most paid time off for parental leave, about two years. Hungary offers at least 11/2 years of paid leave.