Amazon Makes a Move to Become More Family Friendly

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The e-commerce giant -- recently lambasted by The New York Times as having a "bruising workplace" -- is the latest tech company to seriously sweeten its parental leave policy.

Juggling work and a new baby can be challenging and downright exhausting. But some employers are establishing policies to better help their workers adjust to life as new parents.

Amazon is the latest tech company to overhaul and expand its parental leave policy.

New birth moms who have worked full-time for Amazon for at least one year can get up to 20 weeks of paid leave under Amazon’s new policy, according to The Seattle Times. New dads, who previously received no paid parental time off from Amazon, will soon get six weeks of leave.

Previously, Amazon’s policy allowed for eight weeks of paid leave and 12 weeks of unpaid leave.

The new parental leave policy will also allow birth moms and primary caregivers to work half-time or three-quarter time for their first eight weeks back at Amazon. The Times said:

Amazon also introduced a “leave share program” that allows employees to gift all or part of the six-week leave to a spouse or partner who does not have paid parental leave through his or her own work.

That means the Amazon employee would come back to work, and his or her partner could get paid by Amazon to stay home and care for the child.

Amazon’s new policies, which take effect Jan. 1 and apply to babies born or adopted after Oct. 1, come just two and a half months after The New York Times published a damning expose of the e-commerce giant.

The Times called Amazon a “bruising workplace” and described it as a company that expects its employees to always put work first.

Amazon told The Seattle Times that it reviews its benefits annually and started working on a new parental leave policy early this year.

Just 12 percent of private sector workers in the United States have access to paid family leave, according to the Department of Labor. But Fortune notes that “companies with deep pockets and a strong demand for skilled workers are increasingly sweetening their leave benefits.”

Netflix, Adobe and Microsoft recently boosted their leave policies for new parents. Google has offered a generous parental leave policy for years.

The Family Medical Leave Act mandates that eligible employees be allowed up to 12 work weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave in the first year of a child’s life. However, it applies only to businesses with 50 or more employees. For many workers, taking 12 weeks of unpaid time off is not possible.

Paid parental leave has become an increasingly popular worker benefit. I think it’s exciting to see more companies offering paid leave or expanding existing parental leave policies.

Although I worked for a small business (only nine employees) when I had my two children, I was fortunate to be able to take 12 weeks of maternity leave – though it was unpaid – after each birth. I saved all my vacation and sick hours and used those during my maternity leave so I could at least collect a partial paycheck.

What do you think of Amazon’s expanded parental leave policy? Does your employer offer paid parental leave? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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