2015 was a big year for paid parental leave in America. It’s been discussed by Democratic presidential frontrunners Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, and Republican candidate Marco Rubio talked about it, albeit as optional (which runs contrary to the un-optional pregnancy process of going into labor and giving birth!) Plus, our capital introduced its own proposal for a city-wide plan, which would offer DC residents 16 weeks of paid leave, making it the first US city to offer this type of parental leave.
In the meantime, over in the private sector, we’ve seen a considerable jump in the number of companies offering, and publicly touting, enhanced parental leave policies. It seems there’s an arms race among these companies who are vying for talented, highly educated workers—and paid leave is the newest weapon. These policies are going to make a huge difference in the lives of many families. As the year quickly comes to a close, let’s look back at the biggest newsmakers on the parental leave front.
The big winners:
- Gates Foundation led the pack with the most progressive parental leave policy. The largest private foundation in the world just went for it, offering their employees a full year of paid leave for both birth moms and dads and adoptive parents.
- Spotify was right behind, with six months of paid leave for all parents, adoptive and surrogate-users included. Plus, they made theirs retroactive, so parents who gave birth earlier in the year could still reap the benefits.
- Microsoft now offers 12 weeks of paid leave for all new parents, and up to 20 weeks specifically for birth mothers. And these weeks can be taken in two chunks.
- Adobe is giving birth mothers up to 26 weeks of paid leave, and other parents (including adoptive and foster parents) up to 16 weeks.
- Facebook extended their paid leave policy, which is four months long, to all new dads and same-sex parents employed at offices around the world. A few days before the company officially announced the policy change, CEO Mark Zuckerberg shared the news that he’d be taking two months of paternity leave to spend with his wife and new daughter Max who arrived in late November.
The runners-up (with some kudos deducted for significantly shorter leaves for adoptive parents and/or dads):
- Stonyfield Farm will offer six months paid leave to mothers (or the primary caregiver in a same-sex couple) starting in July 2016. However, the policy doesn’t cover fathers or men in a same-sex couple who aren’t the primary caretakers.
- The US Navy tripled its maternity leave to 18 weeks paid leave for female sailors and marines. And for three lucky bases, it extended its childcare by two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening. This childcare extension will be rolled out across 70 bases over the next few years.
- Johnson & Johnson is now offering up to 17 paid weeks for birth mothers and eight paid weeks for dads and adoptive parents. It’s also retroactive, applying to anyone who gave birth during or after May 2014.
- Blackstone Group, Vodafone, Zillow and Fidelity Investments are all offering 16 weeks paid leave to new birth mothers (and Zillow is even giving expecting employees $1,000 in “baby bucks” to help with essential items!).
Lastly, there are those companies that made headlines for their amazing leave policies but are guilty of excluding many of their low-income workers:
- Netflix garnered plenty of praise when it announced “unlimited paid leave” for up to a year for all new parents (moms and dads, birth and adoptive)…except the workers in the DVD packing business, who will get 12 weeks of paid leave.
- Amazon is now offering 20 weeks of paid leave for birth mothers, with the cool option to share up to six weeks with a partner. But this policy won’t apply to Amazon’s hundreds of thousands of hourly workers.
The changes that happened this year are a big step in the right direction for all families. But that said, we still have work to do. Individual families sharing their stories is the most important part of all of this—more important, even, than these companies’ policies. It's these stories that are going to make a difference. So we have to keep telling them. You can start by sharing your story here with the National Partnership for Women & Families, a nonprofit fighting to make paid family and medical leave available for all working families, and by listening to others in the TEDx Talk below.