(Bloomberg) -- Netflix Inc., which lets employees take as much vacation as they want, is now offering as much as one year of paid time off to new mothers and fathers in whats probably the most generous parental leave policy in the U.S.
New parents can be away from the office for as many days as they choose in the first 12 months after a childs birth or adoption, Netflix said Tuesday in a blog post. The policy sets it far apart from the vast majority of U.S. employers, even in the technology industry, which is famous for worker perks. At Facebook Inc., mothers and fathers get four months paid leave, plus $4,000 in baby cash, while at Google Inc. its up to 18 weeks.
Netflix raises the bar for other companies -- it really sets a whole new bar, said J. Veronica Biggins, managing director at Diversified Search, and executive recruiter in Philadelphia, and a director at Southwest Airlines Co.
Only 12 percent of U.S. private-sector employees have access to any paid family leave through their jobs, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The U.S. is the only nation in the developed world that doesnt mandate maternity leave with pay.
In industries competing for talent -- particularly female talent -- parental leave is increasingly a key recruiting tool, said Elaine Eisenman, dean of executive education at Babson College. Its no longer a nice thing to have, its a requirement if you want to keep talented women.
The Netflix post called the policy part of a culture that gives workers the freedom to make their own decisions along with the accompanying responsibility.
Also see: Momentum building for paid leave
Kenneth Matos, senior director of research at the Family and Work Institute, said that hints at a downside for some. When people have unlimited time off, Matos said, they actually tend to take less.
Chief Executive Officer Reed Hastings drew attention for the companys unlimited vacation policy, introduced in 2004; others in Silicon Valley, including Uber Technologies Inc. and Reddit Inc. offer the same.
Now hes at the forefront of a growing recognition that people are constructing their careers with family as a major component, Matos said, with a majority of children being raised by parents who both work outside the home.
In the post, attributed to Tawni Cranz, the video-streaming services chief talent officer, Netflix said that new parents can return part-time, full-time or return and then go back out as needed.
President Barack Obama in January directed federal agencies to offer six weeks of paid leave to their employees when they become new parents as part of a broader push to extend parental leave for U.S. workers.
Nestle SA, Johnson & Johnson, Blackstone Group LP and Vodafone Group Plc expanded their benefits for new mothers and fathers this year, though none made them unlimited.
After it increased paid maternity leave to 18 weeks from 12 in 2007, fewer returning moms left the company, Google said.
With assistance from Sarah Frier, Brian Womack and Jack Clark in San Francisco.
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