Parental-Leave Parade: Where Could This Lead?

At this point, I’m wondering where this parental-leave maelstrom will take us. Earlier this month, protesters of the Netflix-leave 510042321-- parents & newbornannouncement descended on that company’s headquarters in Los Gatos, Calif. to demand the new program extend beyond its wealthiest workers.

Groups including UltraViolet (which I blogged about a little more than a month ago), NARAL, Working Families Party, Democracy for America, Make It Work and Coworker.org were out in force with picket signs and audible opinions — after collecting more than 100,000 signatures protesting Netflix’s policy that, apparently, only serves those making as much as $300,000.

Two days after that protest, Hilton Worldwide unveiled what it’s calling its “industry-leading parental-leave policies.” The benefits will be open to all new parents, not just those in corporate roles. Mind you, it’s not unlimited, but, as Hilton puts it, it’s “the best offered by any major global hospitality company in the United States and Puerto Rico.”

Beginning on Jan. 1, 2016, new parents at Hilton, including fathers and adoptive parents, will receive two weeks of fully paid parental leave. New mothers who give birth will receive an additional eight weeks of maternity leave for a total 10 weeks of fully paid leave.

“We are proud to be at the forefront of driving significant change in our industry … ,” Matthew Schuyler, Hilton Worldwide’s executive vice president and chief human resources officer, said in a statement.

I contacted Schuyler to get his take on where his initiative fits in with the other “news of the day.”

Unlike at Netflix, “we’re supporting all new parents,” he told me. “From our hotels to our corporate offices, and for hourly and salaried team members alike, these new benefits are consistent across all levels. We know the importance of bringing balance to our team members’ lives, and these enhancements will help support them and their growing families.

Mind you, the hotel industry is not the tech industry. There are different variables and realities — and income levels — involved in those two worlds. As this piece on the Washington Post‘s Wonkblog, by Lydia DePillis, puts it:

“While many still find it troubling that lower-paid workers get less paid leave than higher-paid ones, the financial calculus is clear. As competition for tech talent has heated up in places like Silicon Valley, generous leave policies have become a recruiting tool for in-demand professionals — but aren’t necessary to find people who can work a production line.”

Still, I commend Hilton, and Schuyler, for taking the lead in all things hospitality. I’m waiting for others in that industry to join the bandwagon.

In fact, I’m waiting to see just where all this parental-leave one-upmanship — if you will — will lead. And I’m eager to see how the tech industry handles the more complicated conflict the Netflix hoopla has unveiled.

In the greater scheme of all that work/life balance entails, could this new focus on working new parents help redefine the workplace a bit more? Methinks it could.