Tech companies are doubling down on family leave to improve recruiting and diversity
Competition for talent in the tech industry is cut-throat, leading many companies to cook up generous benefits packages to gain an edge. That can mean unlimited vacation, travel stipends, continued learning opportunities, and other perks.
But some tech companies are zeroing in on one benefit that checks two boxes: family leave. Studies show that family leave policies can help companies retain women, a key goal for an industry that struggles with diversity. Tech execs are taking note and expanding what they offer beyond traditional leave for birth mothers to a wide range of benefits including paternity leave, adoption assistance, and fertility treatments.
Take Outreach, a Seattle startup that crafted its family leave policies with recruiting in mind.
“We designed our policy specifically to attract and retain parents and families,” said Outreach CEO Manny Medina.
Outreach interviewed current employees and researched leave policies that have the biggest impact for families before crafting the benefits package offered today. New mothers receive two weeks of paid leave before delivery and an additional 10 weeks after the baby is born. Fathers are eligible for four weeks of paid leave. Outreach also covers the cost of a night nurse Monday through Friday for the first eight weeks following a parent’s return to work and has dinner delivered to them twice a week during that period.
Medina said the approach “definitely has moved the needle” for Outreach as the company recruits and closes candidates for competitive roles. Outreach just became a “unicorn” startup valued at over $1 billion thanks to a new $114 million fundraising round.
But there is a limit to how much paid time off employers can offer, as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation learned this year. In January, the non-profit rolled back its famously generous 52-week paid family leave policy to six months, plus a $20,000 stipend for returning parents to cover childcare costs.
“Ultimately, we concluded the 52-week leave was hindering the foundation’s purpose – to maximize our ability to help people around the world live healthy, productive lives,” Gates Foundation human resources chief Steven Rice said in a LinkedIn post.
The United States is the only industrialized country in the world that doesn’t offer a federal family leave policy. Traction has been slow in Washington D.C., though earlier this month, a new bipartisan coalition formed to explore parental leave legislation.
In the other Washington, legislators stepped in to fill the gaps. Residents and employers in Washington started paying into a new state-wide family and medical leave benefit in January. California, New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Washington D.C. have their own family leave policies. Lawmakers are working to enact protections for all workers, particularly the 83 percent of Americans who don’t currently have access to family leave benefits.
In the tech industry, family leave is more typical. Of the 15 Seattle-area tech companies GeekWire contacted for this story, each offers parental leave.
The big tech companies have a wide range of family planning perks. Google employees are eligible for five months of maternity leave. New parents at Facebook receive a $4,000 baby bonus. Microsoft offers 20 weeks of paid leave for new birth mothers. The Redmond software giant also covers three fertility treatment cycles, genetic testing, and freezing of eggs or embryos for up to four years. Adoptive parents at Microsoft are eligible for $10,000 in assistance with costs.
Amazon offers new mothers four weeks before the baby arrives to prepare and 10 weeks of leave after delivery, plus assistance with adoptions and discounted childcare. But some parents at the Seattle tech company expect more. A group of more than 1,800 “Momazonians” are demanding back-up childcare, which other tech companies like Microsoft, Alphabet, Facebook, and Apple provide.
The family planning perks big tech companies offer can put smaller companies with fewer resources at a disadvantage, according to HR professionals.
“Traditionally, the vast majority of startups were at a disadvantage when you compare parental leave policies against the large tech companies,” said Albert Squiers, director of technology at the recruiting firm Fuel Talent.
But the biggest fish doesn’t always win the competition for tech talent. Startups with fewer employees can sometimes offer more family support to each worker as a result. Big companies, like Amazon, have tens of thousands of employees and the e-commerce giant has made a point of offering the same benefits to all of them.
“I would say it’s more expected at big companies,” said Mikaela Kiner, founder of HR consultancy firm Reverb. “That said, it helps make startups more competitive (and inclusive) if they can offer leave. Even if they can not offer as much or not pay as much for time off, startups can stand out by doing all they can in order to be family friendly.”
Tech companies are starting to expand the family support benefits they offer. Some employers, such as Microsoft, are offering coverage for expensive fertility treatments. It’s also becoming more common for tech companies to offer paid leave and financial assistance for families adopting or fostering children.
“Companies have been increasing both maternity and paternity leaves and adding leave to cover nontraditional families including surrogacy and adoption,” said Kiner.
It makes sense that tech companies would expand parental leave to be more competitive with one another, but there’s another reason for an industry that struggles with diversity to double down on support for families. Google says it increased retention of new mothers by 50 percent when it expanded its maternity leave to 18 weeks in 2007. Patagonia implemented comprehensive on-site childcare after noticing a steady stream of women leaving senior management. The outdoor clothing company now boasts a 100 percent retention rate of new mothers.
Because family leave is ubiquitous in tech, some companies are using comprehensive coverage to gain an edge over their competitors in the talent war. Below is a sample of some of the creative parental leave policies and family planning benefits that tech companies in the Seattle region offer.
Parental leave: All full-time and hourly employees receive up to four weeks of pre-partum pregnancy leave and up to 10 weeks of paid leave after delivery. Employees who have been with Amazon for more than a year receive an additional six weeks of paid parental leave.
Other benefits: Flexible return to work programs, adoption assistance, discounts on childcare, and fertility treatment
Parental leave: Birth mothers receive 18 weeks of paid leave; fathers and adoptive parents receive 12 weeks.
Other benefits: Adoption assistance
Parental leave: For full-time employees, birth mothers receive 20 weeks of paid leave and all other new parents are eligible for 12 weeks.
Other benefits: Fertility treatment, adoption assistance
Parental leave: Birth mothers receive up to 18 weeks of paid leave. Non-birth parents receive up to 12 weeks of paid leave.
Parental leave: New mothers receive 10 weeks of paid leave after delivery and two weeks before the birth. New fathers receive four weeks of paid leave.
Other benefits: Company-paid night nurse and dinner delivery two nights a week for the first eight weeks following a parent’s return to work; flexible return to work program, new parent courses.
Parental leave: Birth mothers receive 16 weeks of paid leave. Other parents are eligible for eight weeks of paid leave.
Other benefits: 15 days of back-up child care per year, $1,000 stipend for new parents; adoption assistance; infertility treatment
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