By Robert G. Yetman, Jr. Editor At Large
Netflix has announced that it will grant new parents up to a full year of paid leave as part of the standard benefits package available to all employees. The perk is regarded as generous even by the lavish standards of technology-centric Silicon Valley, where companies remain in constant, vigorous competition for top talent.
I have seen policies like this unveiled before, and while I’m not intimately familiar with how they fair over the long term, I’ve yet to hear of a company changing course and eliminating such compelling benefits, at least not yet. My suspicion is that those implementing these policies believe that they will be applied judiciously by the designated beneficiaries; that is, while the benefit sounds fantastic when described out loud, and is certainly an eye-catcher for the talent for which a company like Netflix might be vying…the reality is that no one will actually use it to its limits for fear of being seen as “that gal” or “that guy” within the company.
What differentiates a potentially financially magnanimous policy like this from that which was implemented by the CEO of Gravity Payments in Seattle, who established a minimum wage at his firm of $70,000, and is now experiencing some tough times because of it…is the word potentially. In the case of Gravity, the contrived setting of an exorbitant wage scale represented a definite, immediate hard cost to the business, whereas in the case of a benefit like this, it is something that may or may not be indulged to any of a variety of degrees. For example, it is widely theorized that although the benefit is real and may certainly be used, that, in practice, few, if any, staff will actually sit out from work…with pay…for a significant length of time; as a result, while the perceived benefit will accrue to Netflix, it will not actually be utilized by employees to such a degree that any deleterious effects will ensue at the company.