Why Is Everyone Criticizing Netflix’s Paid Parental Leave Plan?

By Rex Huppke
Chicago Tribune.
OPINION

If there were a common protest chant in workplaces across America it would go something like this:

“What do we want?”

“Change!”

“When do we want it?”

“Soon, so we can start complaining about it!”

I thought of this as I watched the swift reaction to news that Netflix is giving its employees up to a year of paid maternity or paternity leave after the birth or adoption of a child.

In a blog post, the company’s chief talent officer wrote: “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. We’ll just keep paying them normally, eliminating the headache of switching to state or disability pay. Each employee gets to figure out what’s best for them and their family, and then works with their managers for coverage during their absences.”

That sounds pretty sensible to me. And the initial reaction in Web headlines and on social media was, “Wow! What a great step forward for working parents!”

But less than a day after the company’s announcement, the tone changed and I started seeing these actual headlines: “Why Netflix’s unlimited parental leave is probably a bad idea for your company”; “Why Netflix’s ‘unlimited’ maternity leave policy won’t work”; and “Netflix’s New Parental Leave Policy Could Make Things Worse for Women.”

Good grief, people, way to be negative.

When it comes to paid maternity leave, we, as a country, suck. Consider this fact from a 2014 report by the International Labour Organization: “Out of the 185 countries and territories with information available, all but three provide cash benefits to women during maternity leave. The three exceptions are Oman, Papua New Guinea and the United States.”

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