Amazon Expands Parental Leave Offerings

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By Martin Berman-Gorvine

Nov. 12 — Online retail giant Amazon has become the latest big retailer to expand paid parental leave, according to an e-mail a company spokesman sent Bloomberg BNA Nov. 5.

Employees are increasingly demanding such benefits in today's tight job market, a recent survey indicated (33 HRR 1072, 10/12/15).

The company said it is now offering up to 20 paid weeks of leave, consisting of four weeks of paid pre-partum medical leave for pregnant employees, followed by 10 weeks of paid maternity leave and six weeks of paid parental leave. The latter is the new element and is also available to “all other new parents who have been at Amazon for a year or more,” the company said in a Nov. 2 e-mail to employees.

The company is also offering the option to “share” up to six weeks of that leave with a spouse or partner whose employer doesn't offer paid parental leave. In an example Amazon offered, “Julia is an associate at an Amazon Fulfillment Center and recently had a baby. She's taken 10 weeks of paid maternity leave and would like to come back to work. Ideally, she'd like her husband to take some time off at this point, which would make her return to work easier. However, her husband's employer provides only unpaid paternity leave, and it's going to be financially difficult for him to take time off. That's where the Leave Share Program can help. Julia can share all or a portion of her paid parental leave with her husband, and he can stay home and help with their new baby.”

The company noted that its leave-share program “was developed to help replace lost income for an employee's spouse or partner who is taking leave from an employer that does not provide paid parental leave.”

That leave-share program is sex and sexual orientation blind, Amazon added. The company is also offering a flexible return-to-work program that is not dependent on an employee's supervisor's approval.

All full-time hourly and salaried employees, including more than 100,000 employees of Amazon's fulfillment center and its customer service employees, are eligible for these benefits.

The new benefits, which kick in Jan. 1, have been in the works for some time, Amazon said. “We review our benefit programs annually and began considering our leave policies in early 2015. In addition to benchmarking other companies, we conducted employee focus groups and solicited input from Amazon new mothers classes, AWE [Amazon Women in Engineering] leadership, and AmazeCon participants,” the latter referring to a conference the company sponsored earlier this year. “We also surveyed new moms about their overall experience and transition back to work,” the company said.

Netflix (33 HRR 845, 8/10/15) and Microsoft (33 HRR 846, 8/10/15) are among the companies that recently announced paid parental leave benefits for employees.

To contact the reporter on this story: Martin Berman-Gorvine in Washington at mbermangorvine@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Simon Nadel at snadel@bna.com