Marissa Mayer is one of those beautiful and successful women that make us all reassess our life achievements. She is Yahoo’s chief executive, ex-Vice President of Google Product Search and lives in a penthouse suite at the Four Seasons Hotel in San Francisco. ‘She may have the career,’ you think, ‘but at least I have a family life.’ Unfortunately, so does she.

Mixed messages from Yahoo

Mayer recently announced that she is pregnant with twins. Although congratulations are in order, the press has turned its gaze to her intention to ‘take limited time away and working throughout’ the pregnancy. This is not the first time. In 2012, she returned to work only two weeks after giving birth to her first child. Mayer says that her circumstances, namely an uncomplicated birth, and the crucial time in Yahoo’s transformation have shaped her decision.

Her decision has been heavily criticised for setting a poor precedent for other women in the company who may not benefit from a rich support network and comparable work flexibility. She did, after all, build herself a nursery next to her workplace. However, Mayer simultaneously announced that Yahoo’s parental leave would be extended to 16 weeks of paid maternal leave. On the one hand, Yahoo now offers more freedom for women to take parental leave; on the other hand, Mayer’s example may contribute to the pressure to readily go back to work.

Limited unlimited leave at Netflix – oh, the irony!

A similar ambiguity has been raised with Netflix. Early last month, Netflix announced unlimited parental leave during the first year of birth or adoption of a child. In theory, the policy is a radical step forward for young parents in a country where only 1 out of 7 employees benefit from paid parental leave. In practice, its effect is to reduce the length of parental leave. Joan Williams, director for the Center for WorkLife Law, says the ‘underlying work culture send the message that if you’re really committed, you’re here all the time.’

Somewhat comically, after advertising its glorious unlimited parental leave scheme, activist groups have revealed that the blue collar workers will not benefit. Well compensated digital workers have parental leave; those who stuff DVDs into envelopes do not.

Give them leave to make them stay

Employer-provided parental leave demonstrate that you, as an employer, value your employees and project a continuing relationship. In turn, this will increase employee satisfaction, productivity and efficiency. You may also reduce training and recruitment costs. In Donna Morris’ words, your ‘employees are [your] intellectual property and [your] future… the investment is unquestionably worth it’. To find out more, consider the checklist of decisions for employers planning to introduce employer-provided paid parental leave. In addition to employer provided parental leave, you may be under a legal obligation or you may wish to provide government-funded Parental Leave Pay.

To define a parental leave scheme that suits your business model and values, contact us on 1800LAWPATH and we can connect you with one of our specialist employment lawyers.

Dominic Woolrych

Dominic is the CEO of LawPath, dedicating his days to making legal easier, faster and more accessible to businesses. Dominic is a recognised thought-leader in Australian legal disruption, and was recognised as a winner of the 2015 Australian Legal Innovation Index.