You may have heard earlier this month that Netflix announced that their employees who are new moms or dads may take off as much time as they’d like during the first year following their child’s birth or adoption. With this, Netflix has joined other major companies like Google and Facebook, who have implemented generous parental policies that are vastly different than the mandatory parental leave policies of most other companies in America. Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), new parents are entitled to just 12 weeks of unpaid leave and only after they’ve been at a company for a certain amount of time.
If you’re a large employer in a competitive field, like technology, you need to offer a certain level of benefits in order to attract the best talent in your space. But, what about companies in other industries where the competition for talent is less intense or smaller firms who are simply unable to provide these kinds of benefits?
Note that smaller companies are not obligated to offer FMLA – only companies with 50 or more employees must comply with the guidelines. Employers with 50 or more employees are required to allow for the 12 weeks of unpaid time off and hold the employee’s position, or a comparable position, for their return. It’s becoming increasingly clear that the Department of Labor (DOL) doesn’t think this is enough. They have been comparing the perceived lack of parental leave benefits with those of other countries (where they are deemed to be more favorable) and encouraging employers to #LeadOnLeave.
In reality, 96% of U.S. companies have fewer than 50 employees, which means they don’t have to adhere to FMLA guidelines, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t trying to be a “family-friendly” employer. Small businesses may stay competitive by offering eight weeks of unpaid leave. They could also offer to hold the employee’s position while they’re out, even though they aren’t required to. Small firms also enjoy some flexibility that large firms may not. Perhaps a small company could take a one-off approach with new parents such as provide flexible work schedules, offer a work from home situation or even a bring your child to work arrangement.