This is an excerpt from a Wired article by Emily Dreyfuss. For the full article, click here.
An objectively good thing happened in big tech Thursday: Microsoft said it will require companies that supply it with subcontractors — think cafeteria and custodial staff — to give those workers 12 weeks of paid parental leave. In doing so, Microsoft is once again taking the lead in ensuring contractors get benefits that other big companies reserve for full-time employees.
Back in 2015, Microsoft began requiring its suppliers to give their employees 15 days of paid vacation and sick leave annually. That prompted other tech companies like Facebook to follow suit. Labor advocates hope Microsoft’s new parental leave policy inspires a similar trend.
Thursday’s announcement builds off that work. “This change applies to all parents employed by our suppliers who take time off for the birth or adoption of a child. The new policy applies to suppliers with more than 50 employees and covers supplier employees who perform substantial work for Microsoft,” wrote Microsoft VP and General Counsel Dev Stahlkopf in a blog post. It will not cover individuals who contract with Microsoft themselves.
These workers will be guaranteed 66 percent of their wages or up to $1,000 a month for three months. Microsoft notes that this policy will be a minimum requirement; if local laws require a more generous leave package, employers will need to adhere to that. Paid parental leave has been shown to help everyone — children, parents, and employers, which retain workers at a higher rate if they offer it.
“Cleaning all of the floors every night is not easy. I need maternity leave because it gives me the time for my body to heal and recover,” says Hajira Aden, a janitorial worker with SBM Site Services who works at Microsoft, and is a member of the Seattle chapter of the Service Employees International Union. Aden is currently on unpaid maternity leave, but would be covered by this new policy had it been in effect. “To get by, I have to rely on short-term disability to cover my bills,” she says, noting the new parental leave policy will help families like hers in the future.
That Microsoft is requiring not just maternity leave, but paternity leave as well is especially important. “Taking paternity leave leads to greater gender equality within the household, and that, of course, makes it easier for the mother to return to work,” Eileen Appelbaum, an economist and co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, tells WIRED. She says research suggests fathers who are able to bond with their children in those early months end up being more involved in their lives forever.