It was big news when media giant Netflix announced it was giving its employees unlimited maternity and paternity leave for the first year after a child's birth or adoption.
Fortune called Netflix's move "game-changing," and several companies followed the streaming company's lead, including Microsoft, which improved its parental leave policy within 24 hours of Netflix's announcement.
Despite the move being good news for children and great news for parents, it's 2016. Generous parental leave policies shouldn't really be big news for the world.
That is to say, there's no law in the United States requiring it — which puts us in the company of just a couple other countries in the world, like Papua New Guinea and Suriname.
The closest thing we have is the Family and Medical Leave Act, which offers job protection to those who have to spend time away from work for family-related reasons. Pregnancy and adoption are among those reasons, as well as foster care placement, but the time off is unpaid.
That means that, yes, it's still big news when a company takes it upon itself to financially support employees who are starting or continuing their families.
The better news, however, is that when companies have generous parental leave policies, things tend to go really well for everyone.
Offering paid parental leave tends to help companies much more than it hurts them, studies show.
Like any benefit, parental leave is an investment that a company makes in its employees. Ideally, the short-term cost of paid parental leave (which is often funded by a small payroll tax, similar to Social Security) should be outweighed by the long-term benefits, such as increased productivity, improved employee morale, and better retention of great employees.
“If you lose someone, you might need to spend more time and energy and money on recruiting someone than you would obviously if you’re able to retain excellent employees,” Marie Danzig, head of creative and delivery at Blue State Digital, explained to ThinkProgress, noting how important employee retention is to companies like hers.
It's easy to see how a brand-new parent, when afforded the opportunity to take some time off to stay at home and, you know, be a parent to their new child or children, would be more likely to stay at their job for a long time.
"There’s something about sitting with your family in a nice cozy house, not having to go to work, and getting a paycheck to pay for all the things that you need," Matt Ipcar, executive creative director and senior vice president at Blue State, told ThinkProgress. "In the back of your mind you’re constantly like, ‘Wow, my company is really great.'"
Offering paid parental leave also helps promote gender equality and even potentially addresses the problem of the gender wage gap.
A new study of 22,000 companies in 91 countries found that companies offering more paternity leave for new dads also have more women in their boardrooms and holding executive positions.
Essentially, when parents are treated as parents (regardless of their gender) and everybody gets time off to bond with and parent their children, people of all genders see more equal opportunities arise.
“In countries that are more family-friendly and have greater support for child-bearing and rearing, women experience less disruptions in their careers and are more likely to make it to the top,” Marcus Noland, executive vice president and director of studies at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, told the Huffington Post.
As of 2015, only 1.4% of CEOs in the finance/insurance S&P 500 were women. A large and often-cited reason for the lack of women in CEO positions is that women are often expected to take on child-care duties, while men are not. When companies offer new dads as much paid time off as they offer new moms, things tend to balance out all the way to the top.
By the way, companies with more women in leadership tend to perform better and become more profitable. Just sayin'.
Basically, parental leave is good for everyone.
Paid parental leave is good for parents, who get to spend valuable bonding time with their children; it's great for children who get valuable time with their parents; and it's great for the companies that offer it. By treating their employees well, companies can improve their overall performance by retaining their best employees.
There's no good reason to be against parental leave for parents of any gender.
That is, I guess, unless you just really enjoy being in an exclusive club with Papua New Guinea, which is cool — I hear they have a great rugby team. But that's not how we should be making important parental leave policy decisions.
As someone whose complete and utter terror at the prospect of having kids is slowly fading into a marginally milder terror, can I just say: It's 2016. Let's make parental leave a priority. OK? It's just the right thing to do.