This Company Gave Its Employees Equal Paid Family Leave

February 3rd 2017

Mike Rothschild

Last March, online marketplace Etsy announced it would offer equal paid family leave to both men and women. The policy, offering men and women 26 weeks of paid time off over two years, was designed "to be flexible, gender-neutral and to counteract unconscious bias" according to a blog post from Juliet Gorman, the company's director of culture and engagement.

In doing so, the company joined other major employers in offering gender-neutral family leave, including Facebook, Netflix, Bank of America, and Patagonia. Afterwards, another wave of companies adopted similar policies, including Ikea, American Express, and corporate employees at Coca-Cola.

This week, Etsy released the first results of their new policy, and they're extremely encouraging to advocates of paid parental leave. According to a follow-up post by Gorman, the policy has been a great success.

She writes that since March, 48 Etsy employees have taken parental leave, with an equal split between men and women. Etsy's more than 800 person workforce has a higher percentage of women, yet just as many men felt comfortable taking parental leave — a sign that men will take leave if it's offered.

Beyond that, the taking of time off to raise children doesn't appear to have had a negative impact on employees career trajectory.

Gorman reports that "of those who have taken the new parental leave, 35 percent have been promoted since April, which means they were promoted either soon before, during or after taking leave. Of those who were promoted, 41 percent advanced to director level or above."

This is extremely significant, because previous research has found that both men and women who have taken time off to care for children have seen their careers suffer as a result.

Men in particular have seen reduced lifetime earnings, lost promotions, and a social stigma for missing work time dealing with something traditionally seen as a women's issue.

With such a short amount of time and data available from only a few dozen employees, more research is needed to see if these positive effects will last. Even Gorman cautions readers that "it’s early days, and we know there’s still much to learn."

If other companies offering generous and gender-blind parental leave are able to show similar success, it might go a long way to altering the United States' woefully inadequate policies.

The U.S. is the only one of 41 countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development that doesn't mandate any paid time off for newly arrived children — though many of these still offer no or limited time to fathers.

The private sector hasn't stepped in to fill the void, either. Only 21 percent of large companies offer paid maternity leave, though this is up from 12 percent in 2014. Far more, including companies with tens of thousands of employees, either offer nothing or won't divulge their policies.