Weeks into this pandemic, those of us who can work from home have settled into some kind of rhythm of mediocrity: not quite teaching or caring for our kids enough; not quite working at our jobs too well either. We’re the lucky ones, compared to those who have been laid off or who still have to go to work, scrambling to find a social-distancing approved way to care for their kids. But we’re also pretty darn envious of the employees of a handful of companies like Microsoft that are offering a better, third option.
Last week, Microsoft confirmed the leaked news that it would give employees a whopping 12 paid weeks of leave to use as they needed “to give our employees greater flexibility and time off as they face extended school closures,” a spokesperson told CNN. The company is based in Seattle, where schools are closed for the rest of the year, and now parents can either choose to take all three months off at once, or take just a few days at a time.
The Families First Coronavirus Relief Act that was signed into law last month did include some paid leave for parents facing the same ordeal, but it fell far short of covering all the parents it needed to. It states that employees can get up to two weeks sick leave at two-thirds of their regular pay and up to 10 weeks extended family and medical leave at two-thirds of their regular pay. The catch is that only those who work in companies with fewer than 500 employees are eligible to receive the benefit, and plenty of places with fewer than 50 employees are also exempt.
Which is why we’re pretty thrilled to see bigger companies step up and offer more. In March, Facebook said it would give four weeks of leave for employees to care for their children, plus six weeks more if they had to care for anyone with medical needs during this time. According to the Los Angeles Times, Google announced employees could take paid two weeks off to care for children, with an additional four weeks available to use if they needed to reduce their hours or days.
During the booming economy of recent years, some big tech companies have been improving their benefits, including parental leave, for full-time employees (with a rather spotty record when it comes to contractors), who were in high demand. We sincerely hope the change in the economic forecast won’t cause them to pull back on such measures.
The economy is also likely on the minds of many parents as they decide whether to take this paid leave. As usual, we’re all left to wonder how bosses will view the fact that we put our families before our work, even in a global emergency. Will the people who put their work first, or who have the means to hire babysitters, keep their jobs while the ones who took the leave get pink slips? It sure would be nice to know the answer to that. We’re just all going to have to choose what makes the most sense for us and for our children right now.
Are any other companies stepping up to offer paid parental leave like Microsoft? Let us know in the comments!
Whether or not you’ve got paid leave, you might need this help keeping your kids busy when school is closed.