Are Employers Finally Seeing the Benefits of Family Time?

Family with new house drawing

The internet exploded with a cheer of collective approval when Netflix announced that it would begin providing its employees with unlimited parental leave for up to one year; shortly after Netflix made the announcement, Adobe Systems announced that it would provide new mothers with up to 26 weeks of maternity leave, and Microsoft said it would offer 20 weeks of maternity leave for new mothers.

The new policies are being celebrated as milestones on the path for gender equality, since women are more likely than men to drop out of the workforce after they bring a new child into the home.

But as the Washington Post reported, these announcements from Netflix, Adobe, and Microsoft are still bitter pills to swallow for the majority of working American women. The U.S. is still the only developed nation that doesn’t guarantee paid parental leave for new fathers; the closest that the country has gotten to protecting the rights of new parents was back in 1993 when the Family and Medical Leave Act was passed.

This legislation guarantees that women — but not men — can have at least 12 weeks of maternity leave. The only catch (because of course there’s a catch), is that companies aren’t required to provide these 12 weeks with full pay.

The policy changes implemented by Netflix, Adobe, and Microsoft are not entirely without limitations, as Fortune noted, specifically regarding the lack of paternal leave in the policies of Adobe and Microsoft. But it’s a major improvement in terms of creating a flexible employee-friendly environment, and it’s a decent alternative to something like telecommuting, which is considered a valuable job perk by about 80% of American workers and is one way that businesses reduce turnover while emphasizing the importance of family life.

The ability to balance home life and work life is something that many Americans struggle with, as the Atlanta Business Journal reported recently. According to a recent Randstad U.S. Employee Engagement Study, about 41% of workers believe it’s impossible to find this balance.

So will Netflix, Adobe, and Microsoft change the way American workers view parental leave? For now, it seems that these policies are still just a perk reserved for a small percentage, but it might be enough to start a bigger movement for a real policy change across the board.

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