More Companies Taking the Plunge with Expanded Paid Maternity Leave

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In what will hopefully become a trend, some companies are extending their maternity and paternity leave policies in the U.S.

In what will hopefully become a trend, some companies are extending their maternity and paternity leave policies in the U.S. On Tuesday, Netflix announced that new mothers and fathers will get unlimited (full) paid leave for the first year of their newborn's life. And yesterday, Microsoft unveiled its own new parental leave policy. Microsoft currently provides eight weeks of fully paid maternity disability leave for new mothers, plus 12 weeks of parental leave for all parents, of which four are paid and eight are unpaid.

But starting November 1, all 12 weeks will be paid, and mothers will receive a total of 20 weeks. Mothers can also take up to two weeks of leave prior to giving birth "to manage the physical impact that often comes with late pregnancy and to prepare for the upcoming birth," the company writes in a statement. Microsoft will also give parents the option of taking their leave all at once, or splitting it into two chunks.

These changes are encouraging, but far too many employers have yet to realize that employees need policies that provide more time and financial support to balance their responsibilities as parents and workers. It's unbelievable that the U.S. is the only developed country that doesn't guarantee paid maternity or parental leave to workers.

"Compared to other rich nations in the OECD group, America's outlier status is stark: the UK guarantees 52 weeks of paid leave for mothers, two of which are mandatory," The Guardian reports. "Australia offers 18 weeks. And Mexico, the US's neighbor to the south, gives mothers 12 weeks of paid leave, reimbursed at 100 percent of their salary."

And good luck if you work for a startup that isn't a big player in Silicon Valley. Only a third of U.S. companies that are three years old or younger have a parental leave policy, according to a 2014 study by display advertising startup PaperG. The company was researching maternity leave policies when an employee became pregnant, which was a first for the then 5-year-old company.

Granted, many startups are in similar positions as PaperG with young employees and a maternity leave policy isn't necessary. But some of those employees will eventually start families. Hopefully startups and established companies alike will be brave enough to raise the bar on paid maternity and paternity leave policies--or at least match what our overseas counterparts already have.

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