Netflix grabbed headlines by announcing last week it would grant new parents up to a year of paid leave to stay home with their new bundles of joy, one of the first American companies to take such an action.
But, it turns out, there’s a catch. Of course.
On Aug. 7, the Huffington Post reported that employees in the company’s DVD division aren’t included in the new initiative. Anne Marie Squeo, a company spokesperson, told HuffPo that “Streaming and DVD are totally separate parts of our business with different staff, support, etc. We report revenue, net income, etc. separately for each quarterly.” In other words, the employees on the streaming side are eligible to take the up to 12 months leave, paid in full, and retain their jobs, but the same protections don’t apply to everyone.
The same was true over at Virgin, which announced a new paternity leave program in June. At the time, Forbes reported that new fathers could take up to a full year of leave, with their job waiting for them when they returned, but only those fathers who work at Virgin Management, a small portion of the Richard Branson empire.
By comparison, Google gives new dads seven weeks paid paternity leave and offers 12 weeks leave to fathers who serve as primary caregivers for new family members. Facebook gives new fathers 17 weeks paid leave.
Forbes notes that there are some “big catches” in Virgin’s arrangement. “In a sprawling worldwide group with 50,000 employees, the policy applies to fewer than 140 employees in London and Geneva who work for Virgin Management, the company’s investment and brand licensing arm.” The publication continues that only employees who have been with Virgin Management a minimum of four years are eligible for the benefit, and that employees who have been with the company for at least two years can take a full year off, but will only bring home 25% of their salary.
It’s worth noting that not all women in the United States who welcome new children, whether through pregnancy or adoption, are eligible for paid maternity leave or guarantees their job will be protected until they return. Paid paternity leave has slowly become more common, but is nowhere near ubiquitous either. So while the policies of big companies like Netflix, Google, Facebook and Virgin Management aren’t universally applied to all new parents, they are a step in the right direction.
In the United States, according to the Department of Labor’s Family and Medical Leave Act, “eligible employees of covered employers” can take “unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons” and retain their medical insurance coverage. Up to 12 weeks can be used within a year for the birth of a child or the adoption or placement of a child in a foster care situation, but the leave also applies to caring for a sick spouse, child or parent suffering from a serious illness; treatment for an employee’s serious health condition or a situation that may arise due to an immediate family members’ military service.
In Ontario, pregnant women has the right to take up to 17 weeks unpaid maternity leave, but in some situations a woman might be eligible for a longer leave. The catch, of course, is that the leave is not required to be paid time off.
“New parents have the right to take paternal leave—unpaid time off work when a baby or child is born or first comes into their care,” the provincial government’s website states. “Birth mothers who took pregnancy leave are entitled to up to 35 weeks’ leave. Birth mothers who do not take pregnancy leave and all other new parents are entitled to up to 37 weeks’ parental leave.”
Parental leave is different from pregnancy leave, so birth mothers can take both pregnancy and paternal leave, as each is independent of the other.