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Netflix changes game for working parents with unlimited parental leave

Bethany Ramos is an editor, blogger, and chick lit author. Bethany works as Editor in Chief for Naturally Healthy Publications.

New Netflix parental leave policy has parents cheering

As if Netflix hasn't done enough for us exhausted parents who need something to binge-watch while we're up with a fussy baby in the middle of the night, now the company has gone even further. Netflix announced this week that they will offer an unprecedented working parent benefit for its employees: unlimited maternal and paternal leave in the first year of a child's life.

It's the word unlimited that has every parent's head spinning. We can wrap our minds around unlimited video streaming (how else are you going to watch all three seasons of OITNB in one weekend?), but any kind of "unlimited" benefit for the working parent in the U.S. is unheard of — until now.

Tawni Cranz, Netflix's Chief Talent Officer, says this new policy can give Netflix employees the "flexibility and confidence" to balance work and a new family without worrying about 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," she explains.

This groundbreaking new policy extends to both biological and adoptive parents within the first year of a child's life, and it's just one more example of Netflix's general awesomeness in the workplace. Netflix already offers employees unlimited time off, meaning they are allowed to set their own vacation days for the year. By giving employees a long leash, and especially new parents, Netflix aims to treat their workers "like adults" with the freedom to make their own decisions.

More: The U.S. Navy just raised the ante on paid maternity leave

Parents are giving Netflix a slow clap for making one giant step on behalf of all working moms and dads everywhere. It's no secret parental leave in the U.S. is a joke — we're the only developed country without guaranteed paid maternity leave. Larger companies are required to give new moms up to 12 unpaid weeks off, though many women go back in as little as three days to keep their jobs. Concrete paternity leave is even harder to come by since dads are stereotypically expected to bring home the bacon. Men are interested in taking this extra time to bond with their child, but it would be an understatement to say that most employers aren't receptive.

More: What it’s really like working after 3 months or less of maternity leave

Netflix's big move has the opportunity to create some major change: It applies to both moms and dads, without any kind of gender bias or preconceived notion of what a typical American family should look like. It's also helping to bring the U.S. up from our abysmal last-place spot at the Fair Parental Leave Olympics — Netflix's new policy matches that of Canada, known for its yearlong leave with benefits.

More: When it comes to maternity leave, always have a plan

This Netflix news is amazing for parents, with the potential to encourage other large companies in the U.S. to follow suit, but what about the rest of the employees? The new Netflix policy has been met with resistance by some workers who don't have and may never plan to have children. This criticism makes sense if you're looking at the policy from a child-free perspective (and forgetting the fact that Netflix already offers generous vacation time to all employees), but it's missing the big picture.

Netflix gets it. A company that cares about their employees benefits everyone. This unlimited parental leave policy is not only good for parents; it's good for business. Netflix has set the bar high. Their new policy puts pressure on thousands of other companies in the U.S. that are working employees for all they are worth without providing fair benefits or compensation. What looks like a great benefit for the working parent is actually a sign of change in the workforce — Netflix is encouraging companies to treat all employees like people.

When Netflix does right by parents, everybody wins.

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