A variety of high-tech companies in the U.S. have recently decided to make big appeals to their employees and potential new hires. Netflix announced last month that it is starting an unlimited leave policy for new mothers and fathers for the first year after the birth or adoption of a child. As part of the new policy, employees will receive their normal pay. They will be able to return to work part time or full time, and they may also return to work and then take additional time off, if needed.
The new Netflix policy far exceeds typical leave rules at U.S. companies, where there are few federal policies aimed at working parents. The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 does guarantee employees at companies of a certain size 12 weeks of unpaid leave. “Netflix’s continued success hinges on us competing for and keeping the most talented individuals in their field,” said Tawni Cranz, chief talent officer at Netflix, in a blog posted to the company’s website. “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.”
Microsoft also said in August that it would provide 12 weeks of paid leave to new parents and 20 weeks of paid leave to birth mothers. Further, Facebook said it provides up to four months of paid leave for employees who are new parents. Would such leave policies work for ad specialty companies? Industry reaction is mixed. “Given how customer service driven our industry is, combined with a relatively small workforce compared to Netflix, unlimited leave would put an undue burden on both the company and fellow employees,” said Mark Ziskind, COO of Top 40 distributor CSE (asi/155807).
Jim Franklyn from distributor firm InkHead (asi/231159) echoed Ziskind’s sentiments when asked if unlimited leave for new parents is something that could be incorporated into his company’s operations. “As a technology-driven distributor that thrives in the new hybrid model, an employee receiving unlimited time off for a newborn would not work for us,” he said. “We are flexible and sensitive to the celebration of a new child being born, but also have a business to run.”
Others in the promotional market viewed the moves by the technology companies as necessary in today’s battle to attract and retain top talent. “I think employers are asking their employees and prospective job candidates to blur the lines of work/life balance,” said Jim Martin of supplier firm Numo (asi/74710). “Employees are more connected than ever, especially in our quick turn industry. As a result, I think businesses should consider creative ways to support that blurring. If we're going to ask you to answer a quick email here or there after hours, then I think it's important for an employer to be flexible in the same way when an employee needs it.”
Many believe that kind of flexibility is the key to managing employees today and increasing productivity. “Greater flexibility in the workplace is a positive phenomenon,” said Mark Graham of distributor firm Rightsleeve (asi/308922). “There is no question that [unlimited leave] can be stressful for companies, as this means having to create a more flexible working environment. But if you have that in place, this can be an incredible competitive advantage when attracting top tier talent.”