Baby Leave Boom: Will US Companies Up Their PTO Game?

This week, Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer announced she was pregnant with twins and expected to work throughout her pregnancy, only taking a short break after the birth, as she did with her first child in 2012. Critics suggested her evasion of the extended leave time she herself initiated at Yahoo! would discourage employees from taking advantage of the benefit themselves. This isn’t the first time Mayer has come under fire for flex-time and work benefit decisions; in 2013, she instituted a ban on telecommuting in an effort to refocus her workforce amidst a tricky turnaround.

Mayer’s announcement aside, the news brought back into the spotlight the issue of family leave benefits, especially within the tech sector. Netflix recently announced unlimited parental leave up to one year for their web-based personnel; Microsoft extended maternity leave to 20 weeks, while partners get 12 weeks; and Adobe recently stretched its paid leave to 26 weeks for new mothers. These announcements are startling considering the United States does not require companies to provide paid time off (PTO) for illness or family.

Or, perhaps the fact that the US does not require PTO for these instances is what’s truly startling. The United States lags behind other developed countries dramatically when it comes to parental and sick leave benefits, as this 2014 Atlantic article shows (http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/06/good-job-america-a-m...). France, Germany, Finland, and Sweden offer close to 50 weeks of paid maternity leave, with up to 150 weeks of protected leave, while the US offers 0 weeks of PTO and 12 protected weeks.

The decision by US companies to implement PTO benefits such as these likely stems from a retention/recruitment standpoint, as well as to comply with government legislation for their global workforces. Major corporations with operations in other countries will offer generous benefits packages to attract top personnel, and it makes sense that the tech industry, which relies on the newest and best talent, would be at the forefront of implementing those policies.

It is unlikely, however, that other companies in the US will quickly follow suit, especially in industries that lean on hourly workers, such as retail or hospitality. While companies in those industries are grappling with wage increases and unionization of workers, they will not institute packages like this unless legally required to do so.