Today, Netflix announced a huge update to its employee benefits policy: Parents can now take a paid maternity or paternity leave for as long as they’d like.
That applies to the first year after their child’s birth. Parents can return and leave again as necessary (presumably, as long as that’s also cleared with their team). It’s an incredibly generous policy considering – as of 2015 – paid maternity leave is still not mandated in the United States.
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Yet upon hearing the news, I found myself terrified by the idea of unlimited maternity leave. It’s hard enough for a woman to find a high level, well-paying job. The idea of an extended absence and letting someone else essentially replace me is a scary thought.
What are you supposed to do upon return? Pretend everything is as it was 12 months ago?
Think of all the things that could change with your company in the time you were gone, particularly in a fast-growing company like Netflix. New team members, products, strategies – all the things that may find you irrelevant by the time you walk back into office.
Some of America’s most powerful female tech executives, including Marissa Mayer and Sheryl Sandberg, admitted to taking just a few weeks of maternity leave; Mayer even said she worked through those weeks. Do you chalk that up to being a control freak, or a feeling of guilt? Maybe a little of both.
Giving your child a healthy upbringing is equally important as work, but it’s a tough balance when work is what you need to provide for your kids. Being allowed to jump to and back from work for extended periods is a neat idea, but I wonder how productive that is in a real life team setting, or with a young family.
Until paid parental leave is a mandated policy in America, there is always potential for guilt and fear that your workplace relationship will be strained if you decide to take an extended leave. The culture, unlike in Europe where parental leave is common and supportive, seems unforgiving.
I admit it’s my paranoia speaking, and I trust that good companies will create a solid return plan so you’re not coming back to an entirely different workplace. But it’s a question I’d still love to pose to our readers: Is unlimited maternity leave as good as it sounds?
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