Streaming video company says both new moms and dad can take unlimited parental leave, up to one year, without sacrificing pay.

Sarah Thomas, Director, Women in Comms

August 5, 2015

3 Min Read
Netflix Ups the Ante on Parental Leave

Netflix has announced a leave policy for new moms and dads that employees everywhere are probably hoping sets a precedent: unlimited parental leave for the first year with no change in pay.

The new policy applies to all Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX) employees -- female or male -- in the US and Canada for the first year after their child's birth or adoption. Parents can return part-time, full-time or somewhere in between in an arrangement they work out with their managers.

In announcing the new policy in a blog post, Netflix Chief Talent Officer Tawni Cranz says it's part of the company's plan to foster a "freedom and responsibility culture" and help its employees balance the needs of their family with their career.

I think she captured why a program like this matters -- both to Netflix's employees and Netflix as a company -- well in her post. She writes:

  • Netflix's continued success hinges on us competing for and keeping the most talented individuals in their field. Experience shows people perform better at work when they're not worrying about home. This new policy, combined with our unlimited time off, allows employees to be supported during the changes in their lives and return to work more focused and dedicated.

For all the news and views affecting women in the communications industry, visit our dedicated Women in Comms microsite right here on Light Reading.

Parental leave policies like this are rare, especially in the US where there isn't a mandated maternity leave policy and only three months off is standard. Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) is another company often cited for its generous policies -- it offers 18 weeks of paid maternity leave in addition to seven to 12 weeks of "baby bonding" time that can be taken anytime during the newborn's first year. (See Vodafone: What's Good for Moms Is Good for Business.)

In some parts of Europe, parental leave policies like this are much more common. Elaine Weidman, Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC)'s vice president of sustainability and corporate responsibility, based in Sweden, recently told us about Sweden's allowance of 18 months of paid parental leave, something she says both women and men commonly take advantage of in the country. (See Mentor Monday: Ericsson's Elaine Weidman.)

She did, however, point out that taking this much time off can also put either parent behind when they come back to work, struggling to get up to speed or, for new moms, often competing with men who have continued their careers without a break.

While I think Netflix's new policy is a great and important move for new parents, I -- cynically perhaps -- wonder how many of its 2,000 employees will actually take advantage of the full year off. And, if they do, will they get looked down on by their managers and co-workers?

Given that the policy is an option, not a mandate, I could see it making things more difficult for new parents who feel they can't actually take advantage of it. Netflix has also long offered unlimited vacation days, and I'd be very curious to hear the stats on how many days off its employees actually tend to take.

Hopefully Netflix's policy is as good in reality as it sounds on paper. Its culture of freedom and responsibility also has to be one of respect and understanding for new moms and dads -- and maybe even a healthy dose of team work and collaboration to make it easier to take time off and jump back in... when they're ready. (See The Collaboration Imperative .)

— Sarah Thomas, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, Editorial Operations Director, Light Reading

About the Author(s)

Sarah Thomas

Director, Women in Comms

Sarah Thomas's love affair with communications began in 2003 when she bought her first cellphone, a pink RAZR, which she duly "bedazzled" with the help of superglue and her dad.

She joined the editorial staff at Light Reading in 2010 and has been covering mobile technologies ever since. Sarah got her start covering telecom in 2007 at Telephony, later Connected Planet, may it rest in peace. Her non-telecom work experience includes a brief foray into public relations at Fleishman-Hillard (her cussin' upset the clients) and a hodge-podge of internships, including spells at Ingram's (Kansas City's business magazine), American Spa magazine (where she was Chief Hot-Tub Correspondent), and the tweens' quiz bible, QuizFest, in NYC.

As Editorial Operations Director, a role she took on in January 2015, Sarah is responsible for the day-to-day management of the non-news content elements on Light Reading.

Sarah received her Bachelor's in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She lives in Chicago with her 3DTV, her iPad and a drawer full of smartphone cords.

Away from the world of telecom journalism, Sarah likes to dabble in monster truck racing, becoming part of Team Bigfoot in 2009.

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