What to Expect When You’re Expecting Your First Parental Leave Policy


Parental leave has been top of mind for us lately at Gray Scalable (shoutout to our three newest & most adorable additions to the Gray Scalable family - Elle, August & just this week - Isabel!).

Clients ask us all the time for guidance on creating and improving their parental leave policies. With the U.S. being one of only TWO countries in the world that does not legally require paid leave for new mothers (the other? Papua New Guinea), we have a lot of work to do to. Some cities and states are starting to catch up and require partial or fully paid leave (note: many of these are funded by employee payroll deductions).

You might be thinking of revamping your parental leave policy, or maybe you have your first-ever pregnant employee. What now? Here are the questions we take our clients through when considering how to structure their programs:

How many weeks of paid leave is standard?

The average: We reviewed over 250 companies on the site fairygodboss.com, and among tech and media companies, the most common amount of time to offer for paid leave was 12 weeks. And among the better known companies we looked at, we found that they are either drawing the line at 3 months (12 weeks) or 4 months (16 weeks).

These numbers did not seem to be based on whether the company was public or private, the percentage of female employees at the company, or the amount of funding they have received (if they are a start-up). So, If you want to remain competitive in the market, we’d recommend starting here!

We’ve created some interactive graphs for you below to show these points.  Click on the gray boxes to see the different graphs -



(Keep in mind your legal obligation: if your company has 50+ employees, eligible employees receive 12 weeks of unpaid leave, including their regular benefits. Check out the Family and Medical Leave Act for eligibility information. Note: your city/state may have additional requirements and short-term disability can cover part of a biological mother’s salary for 6-8 weeks.)

Above average: Those extra weeks may just pay their weight in retention gold. When Google increased its paid maternity leave from 12 to 18 weeks, the rate at which new mothers quit fell by 50%. It’s no surprise - the more time and freedom parents have to bond with their baby without the pressure of returning to work, the more ready and refreshed they are when it’s time to jump back in.

Above & beyond: Plenty of companies out there, like Spotify, Etsy, American Express, Twitter, and Adobe offer 5-6 months, and Netflix famously takes it a step further to offer a full year of paid leave to all new parents.

There’s no one right answer - it’s all about what your company is looking to get out your parental leave policy.

Maternity leave? Parental Leave? What’s the right terminology?

Traditionally, companies use Maternity Leave and Paternity Leave when they offer different leave plans for mothers and fathers. Keep in mind that families come in all shapes and sizes! For this reason, many companies now refer to their separate plans as Primary Caregiver Leave and Secondary Caregiver Leave, allowing employees to choose how these roles apply.

Others, who provide the same plan to all parents, use terms like Parental Leave or Family Leave.

Who’s eligible?

You’ve got some choices to make here, knowing that babies arrive in all sorts of ways. A growing number of companies are offering the same leave policies to new parents, regardless of whether the employee delivered the baby or the baby arrived through surrogacy or adoption. Companies like Netflix, Facebook, and Etsy offer the same plans to all new parents, no matter how their new family member arrived.

 In some cases, like at Google and Adobe, employers have three types of leave plans: for biological mothers, primary caregivers, and secondary caregivers.

What else is there to consider?

Whether you’re looking to have the most stellar family benefits out there, or are looking for ways to boost your current leave plan, there are a lot of benefits to consider beyond how many weeks of paid leave you provide:

  • Paid leave before birth: Companies like Microsoft, Apple and Amazon offer additional paid time off for expecting mothers to rest and prepare for their new family member.

  • Transition back time - Recognizing how challenging the abrupt return can be, some employers, like Netflix, Spotify, and Greenhouse, allow flexible schedules for employees during their first several weeks back at work.

  • Staggered leave - Companies like Greenhouse and Netflix allow employees the flexibility to break up their parental leave into weekly or monthly increments (we recommend steering clear of daily increments).

  • Stipends: Companies like Facebook, Google and Yahoo offer stipends, ranging from $500 - $4,000, to help with expenses for each newborn.

  • Childcare - Offering free memberships to childcare services like Urbansitter is a simple way to support parents.

  • Internal support networks - An amazing and important consideration that costs nothing - creating an internal network for new parents to share tips, ask for advice, and just swap stories - many companies, like Greenhouse, Etsy and Twitter, have found creative ways to do this.

So how do you craft the right leave program for your organization? There’s certainly no one-size-fits-all answer, and there are a lot of considerations (including what you can afford - both the cost of your program and the more intangible cost of how it affects your company culture, inclusion, and retention).

Parental leave is just one part of the portfolio of benefits your offer your employees. We recommend starting by talking to your employees and getting a pulse on which benefits they value most.


written by Megan Hughes, HR consultant
& Sam Feldman, People Analytics Manager