Netflix Now Giving Employees 'Unlimited' Maternity, Paternity Leave

This seems pretty freaking great.

Netflix on Tuesday announced that it would offer something completely unheard of in the corporate world: unlimited parental leave for the first year of a child's life.

"We want employees to have the flexibility and confidence to balance the needs of their growing families without worrying about work or finances. Parents can return part-time, full-time, or return and then go back out as needed," said Tawni Cranz, Netflix’s Chief Talent Officer in a statement. "We’ll just keep paying them normally, eliminating the headache of switching to state or disability pay." The policy applies to parents who adopt, as well.

Some of the bigger tech companies already offer generous parental leave -- Google offers mothers five months off and Facebook offers mothers and fathers four. But no one's doing unlimited leave. And most companies offer women more time off than men.

Netflix is already known for its unlimited time-off policy, which allows employees to decide how much vacation to take in a given year. The policy sounds great in theory, but has been criticized for actually leading workers to take less time off for fear of being viewed as not that hard-charging. The company's whole thing is that it treat employees "like adults" -- indeed, staffers don't even have to submit expense reports. Making things easier: strong growth and a stock price that's more than doubled this year.

"We ask our employees to make the best decisions for Netflix everyday," company spokeswoman Anne Marie Squeo said in an email to The Huffington Post. "This frees them to do the same for their expanding families with the company's full support."

Netflix didn't respond to a question about how much leave it previously offered parents. (It did later clarify that the new policy would not apply to those working on the DVD side of the business.)

It'll be interesting to see if there are similar downsides for unlimited parental leave. Will fathers and mothers feel like they have to get right back to work and wind up taking short leaves? It's worth noting that unusually long maternity leaves have in some instances actually held women back in the workplace -- as some employers have passed women over for promotions because of the perception that they would take time away.

The fact that Netflix is offering this up to both men and women is a promising sign that moms won't get penalized. Indeed, treating parental leave as a thing that both men and women need is a crucial step in achieving gender equality in the workplace.
For right now, considering the U.S. has no paid leave policy at all, I'll just be frank: This seems pretty freaking great.
This post has been updated with new information from Netflix.

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