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Could Parental Leave Policy at Netflix Become the Gold Standard for the American Workplace?

parental leave

Netflix has the nation’s most generous parental leave policy, with salaried employees getting 12 months of paid leave (at 100% salary) to take at their own discretion. However, hourly workers were previously excluded. That will now be equalized.

This past summer, the California-based tech company announced a leave policy that provided unprecedented support (at least in the U.S.) to working parents. Yet that policy left out the employees who work on the DVD side of the business, the majority of whom are hourly employees.

But beginning next month, hourly workers will also get paid parental leave at 100% pay, with different lengths depending on the division of the company someone works for. Netflix issued a summary of its policy, and here’s a breakdown of how the leave will work for hourly workers in the streaming, DVD and customer service divisions of the business:

  • Streaming: 16 weeks for maternity, paternity and adoptions at full pay. Previously, we didn’t cover paid leave for paternity and adoptions. In the past, maternity disability pay was all we covered, at ⅔.
  • DVD: 12 weeks for maternity, paternity and adoptions at full pay. Previously we didn’t cover paid leave for paternity and adoptions. In the past, maternity disability pay was all we covered, at ⅔.
  • Customer Service: 14 weeks for maternity, paternity and adoptions at full pay. In the past, maternity disability was all we covered, at 60% of pay. Previously we didn’t cover paid leave for paternity and adoptions.

The statement also explained that “benefits vary depending on decisions made by the leadership of those parts of our business as well as the competitive landscape for each.

Although not everyone gets the full 12 months that salaried workers in the streaming part of the business receive, 12-16 weeks at full pay is a substantial and extremely rare benefit for hourly workers.

The United States is much less generous than most other developed countries in terms of mandated parental leave. Medium and large companies are only required by law to provide 16 weeks of UNPAID leave, but there is no federal requirement for paid leave. Generally, companies that do offer paid leave to new mothers offer it as part of a competitive benefits package to attract highly-skilled salaried workers. Hourly workers – the category that generally needs that support the most – usually have to piece together a few unpaid weeks off, and then head back to work to keep the bills paid.

A host of workers’ rights groups including Democracy for America, NARAL, and the women’s advocacy group UltraViolet, issued very positive statements about the new policy, although they remain less cheerful about Netflix’s two-tiered benefits system.

“All moms and dads of all incomes deserve time to care for their new children,” Nita Chaudhary, co-founder of UltraViolet, said in a statement. “However, it is disappointing that Netflix is continuing their two-tiered system that says some parents deserve more time to bond with their children than others.”

“‘Netflix and chill’ shouldn’t ever mean leaving workers out in the cold when they most need to spend time with their families,” Reuben Hayslett, a campaigner for the Working Families Party, said in a statement. “That’s why we’re so glad to see Netflix has taken a step in the right direction by expanding paid family leave for their hourly employees. That’s more like ‘Netflix and care.'”

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) legally requires employers to give time off to workers for a variety of conditions and circumstances, including childbirth and new baby care. If you have been denied leave by your employer, or terminated due to a pregnancy or childbirth, contact an Employment Attorney or Workplace Lawyer today to represent your rights.

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Emery Reddy