When Netflix first announced their new policy of offering 12 months of paid leave to parents who have or adopt children, it sounded like a great idea. It was not perfect, of course. Parental leave should be guaranteed to workers in all industries, not just a perk doled out to highly paid employees at the whim of big tech companies. And giving too much leave can actually make employees take less, because they worry about taking more than their coworkers and are afraid to take too much if they don’t know exactly how much their workplace culture will allow. But it seemed heartening that companies like Netflix are considering their employees as parents who have roles outside of the office. Maybe, one might optimistically have thought, if companies like Netflix and Google and Facebook started giving paid parental leave, perhaps more Americans would start to see it as a necessity and work to make it happen for all employees.
Ha, nope! It turns out Netflix’s parental leave offer does not even apply to all that company’s employees. Roughly a quarter of the Netflix workforce is not eligible for that leave, because according to The Guardian, Netflix’s nifty new yearlong leave policy does not apply to employees working customer service or in the DVD-by-mail division. Roughly 450 part-time, full-time, and hourly employees in the DVD division will not have access to that leave.
“Netflix is leaving workers who could benefit the most from a generous paid leave policy behind and that is offensive,” said Nita Chaudhary, co-founder of UltraViolet, a women’s rights group, in an interview with The Guardian.
Netflix issued a statement saying that the DVD division employees were well compensated compared to people in similar positions at other companies, but did not deny that they would not be getting the yearlong parental leave offered to employees in the streaming division.
“We provide all of our employees with comparable or better pay and benefits than at other companies,” a Netflix spokeswoman said in a statement. “For example, medical and life insurance for DVD workers exceeds market standards. All DVD employees including hourly also are eligible for a minimum of 12 weeks off for maternity or paternity leave.”
The spokeswoman did not specify if those 12 weeks were paid or unpaid leave, but it seems like a person attempting to make a case for the generous benefits awarded to hourly workers really would have added the word “paid” in that sentence if it were applicable. If it is paid, that is pretty great. It is not a year, but it’s still better than most people in the U.S. can expect right now. If it is not paid, though, then 12 weeks is just what is required by the Family and Medical Leave Act and would be nothing to boast about.
“A worker’s ability to care for their family should not be dependent on what department they work in,” said Mia Moore, chief of staff for Democracy for America.
Three organizations–UltraViolet, Coworker.org, and Democracy for America–are petitioning Netflix to extend the yearlong parental leave benefit to all their employees. Next time Netflix wants to boast about a progressive policy aimed at improving workers’ lives, it would behoove them to make sure it applies to all their employees, not just the fancy ones.