Netflix Sets a New Standard With Unlimited Parental Leave

Netflix Sets a New Standard With Unlimited Parental Leave
Image credit: NETFLIX | Enhanced by Entrepreneur

Paid maternity leave is certainly a standard in most company benefits offerings. But paid paternity leave is quickly gaining ground, as well.

Tech giant Google gives new moms 18 weeks of paid leave and new dads 12 weeks. Microsoft just announced it’s extending its maternity and paternity leave policies to 12 weeks at full pay. And, until yesterday, Ernst & Young had one of the most competitive parental leave policies in the world: 6 weeks at full pay, followed by 33 weeks at half pay.  

While more and more companies are beginning to realize the importance of giving employees unlimited paid time off, not many (if any) offer unlimited paid parental leave.

Until now.

Netflix -- a company known for its top-notch culture, perks and benefits -- has stepped up their employee benefits game with a ground-breaking new policy: unlimited paid maternity and paternity leave.

New parents can essentially come and go as they please within the first year of their child’s birth or adoption, and the company will continue paying them as normal. By paying employees while on parental leave, Netflix eliminates the need to switch to state or disability pay.

“Netflix’s continued success hinges on us competing for and keeping the most talented individuals in their field,” Tawni Cranz, the company's chief talent officer, said in a blog post. “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.”

What does this innovative policy mean for the rest of us? As the work world changes, technology advances and work-life balance is redefined, companies will need to reevaluate their employee perks and benefits in order to stay relevant in today’s ever-changing job market.

So, here are four ways companies of various sizes can make an unlimited parental leave policy work for them:

1. Offer unlimited PTO.

Unlimited paid time off and unlimited paid parental leave are similar in that they both allow employees to take as much time off as they want while still getting paid. So, what’s the difference?

Unlike unlimited paid parental leave, with unlimited PTO, employees certainly won’t try to take off a full, consecutive 12 months. For that reason, it can be easier for companies to start by offering unlimited PTO -- something many companies already do. In fact, my company, Namely, found that 43 percent of the 250+ companies we work with offer some sort of unlimited time off plan.

Companies that offer unlimited PTO will already be well-versed in handling time-off requests and tracking individual time off, which will make the transition from limited to unlimited paid parental leave easier to implement.

Related: Virgin's Unlimited Vacation Policy: PR Ploy or New Employment Paradigm?

2. Hire temp workers.  

One of the biggest concerns for both employers and employees when offering unlimited parental leave is who will take over for the employee who’s on leave. The solution? Temporary workers.

Consider hiring temporary workers to stand in for new parents who are out of the office for an extended period of time. Hiring temp workers to fill in can take some of the pressure (and workload) off of the rest of the team while employees are on parental leave.

3. Reward current staff.

Allowing new parents to take off up to a year means there will be a year’s worth of work to divvy up among the rest of the staff -- especially when hiring temp workers isn’t in the company’s budget.

The additional workload can do a real number on individual and overall employee morale, which is why it’s important for employers to reward employees who help pick up the slack. In fact, according to the 2015 Employee Recognition Report by the Society for Human Resource Management and Globoforce, 86 percent of employees say recognition increases their happiness levels at work.

Whether it’s with an occasional performance bonus or simply a pat on the back, reward employees for their willingness to go above and beyond for the company.

Related: Does Your Company Have a Paid Family Leave Program Yet?

4. Create an “onboarding” program.

Onboarding isn’t just for new hires. For employees who will be out of the office for an extended period of time, it can be helpful to have a plan in place for bringing them back onboard once they return. After all, a lot can happen in a year -- especially for fast-paced companies like Netflix.

Keep track of important documents, project and client updates and similar information all in one place to help employees hit the ground running after returning to work.

Related: The Ins and Outs of Creating a Parental Leave Policy