From Netflix’s new parental-leave policy to Mark Zuckerberg’s two-month paternity break, 2015 was marked by a number of large tech companies revamping employee policies aimed at fostering a work-life balance in the harried lives of tech workers.
In August, Netflix said it would extend its maternal and paternal leave program, allowing new parents up to 12 months of paid time off — a virtually unheard of time-off allotment. Prior to Netflix’s announcement, only Virgin Group had a comparable leave policy. However, other tech companies like Facebook, Google, and Yahoo are known to offer packages in the U.S. not only in the form of paid time off, but also day care and other perks for employees with kids.
The beefed-up leave policy spurred more tech companies to reevaluate their own paid-leave packages to make them more competitive in Silicon Valley’s cut-throat market for employee hiring and retention.
And so this year, Microsoft expanded its maternity leave to 20 weeks, while Adobe publicized a new 16-weeks of paid time off for moms and dads. PayPal and eBay also recently upped their leave packages to 16 and 12 weeks respectively for U.S. employees. Notably, eBay staffers outside the U.S. will only get two weeks off.
Netflix’s new policy was initially limited to salaried employees. Whether because of an ensuing backlash or a delayed rollout, the company ultimately extended its paid-leave policy to hourly employees starting at 12 weeks and going up to as many as 16 hours.
Two trends precipitated the improved maternity and paternity benefits for tech company employees. First, tech companies in Silicon Valley are constantly fighting for the best talent among a small pool of engineers and better benefits can help lure them in.
That’s likely why Netflix broadened its policy. As the company has grown from a DVD rental service to a full-blown streaming-media house, it’s in the position to fight for some of the best talent around. The maternity overhaul also comes as many tech companies are beginning to actively address the lack of women in the industry.
This year venture capital firms and tech companies alike were forced to examine their attitudes towards women. Most notably, the Ellen Pao trial revealed questionable gender equity at the firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers. It also highlighted the exceedingly low numbers of women at venture capital firms at large.
Facebook and Twitter also faced gender-discrimination suits of their own this year, one of which has since been dismissed. The various suits lead many tech companies to review their own diversity practices and pledge to raise the number of women at their companies. One perceived method for attracting more female candidates is to offer meaningful maternity and paternity leave.
“We cannot get to an equal world without men leaning in at home,” Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg noted earlier this year in an AMA-style question and answer session. That means providing leave that supports women inside and outside the workplace.
The question now is, will employees actually take the full time allotted? Mark Zuckerberg, whose wife Priscilla Zuckerberg gave birth to the couple’s first daughter in early December, is slated to take two-months paternity leave, setting an example for other employees in the company. Whether other companies, like Yahoo, will make similar moves in 2016 is yet to be seen.