Netflix raises the bar on paid leave for new parents

Netflix stock hit another record high Wednesday, but the video-streaming company made even bigger news by offering new parents up to a year of paid leave, raising the bar for employee benefits.

Even in the Silicon Valley culture of nap rooms, game rooms and free food, a year of paid leave is a game-changing benefit.

The move shatters the already generous policies of other tech companies. Google offers up to 18 weeks of paid maternity leave. Facebook gives four months to all parents. Instagram and Reddit give 17 weeks to new moms and dads.

It may be what's necessary to keep talent in the youth-dominated digital world, according to Carol Sladek, a benefits consultant with 29 years in human resources. She says new parents in the 21st century have different expectations for parental leave.

"I think that there are some generational differences," Sladek says. "I think certainly we have all heard about millennials and how they are approaching the workforce differently."

The U.S. is the only western, developed country not requiring companies to offer paid maternity leave, joining countries like Papua New Guinea, Micronesia and Tonga.

"I personally think that's a travesty. I think the U.S. could do so much more in valuing motherhood," says Morgan Baden.

She had her daughter Matilda nine months ago. The publisher Scholastic, where Baden is a vice president, provides four months off at full pay, then two months of working part time, still at full pay.

"I absolutely take into consideration Scholastic's maternity policy when planning the rest of my career," Baden says. "And it's a big draw as to why I'm staying at Scholastic."

Which means what Netflix announced might be the most extreme version of a trend that will be felt far beyond Silicon Valley.

"It might be a contagious sort of thing," Sladek says. "So some of this is just good old fashioned business to do what you feel as an employer you need to do to attract the right talent, and be able to keep the right talent."

But Saldek says what makes sense for a high-tech company swimming in cash in Silicon Valley may not work for a Rust Belt manufacturer.

The goal for all may be work-life balance, but that could be better achieved for some companies through flex-time and vacation policies, as opposed to expanding paid maternity leave.

  • Jim Axelrod

    Jim Axelrod is the senior national correspondent for CBS News, reporting for "CBS This Morning," the "CBS Evening News," "CBS Sunday Morning," and other CBS News broadcasts.