Longer time off for U.S. parents welcome, but bosses must lead the way

Mon Aug 10, 2015 5:50pm EDT
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By Patricia Reaney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Better paid leave for new parents is long overdue in the United States, and executives must lead by example to persuade hard-working, vacation-averse Americans to take advantage of such a benefit, family and employment experts said on Monday.

Software maker Adobe Systems Inc (ADBE.O: Quote) on Monday became the third company in a week to expand its benefits, doubling maternity leave to 26 weeks to increase diversity in its workforce and give parents more time with their newborns.

It followed announcements last week by video streaming company Netflix Inc (NFLX.O: Quote) and Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O: Quote) that they were also upping paid time off for new mothers and fathers.

Jennifer Owens, the editorial director of Working Mother magazine, said companies must create a culture so new parents feel comfortable taking leave.

"This is a great foundation and a tall foundation but I want them to build the house that goes around it. I want it to be OK that you can take all of this," she said. "You can offer it but if there is a stigma about using it, that doesn't help."

Owens, who is also the director of the Working Mother Research Institute, said companies must train managers, offer support systems for employees on leave, and lead by example with executives taking parental leave and talking publicly about it.

"It's great but it can't stand on its own," she said. "Companies should look at their culture and they should trace usage and be aware of whether or not it is actually being used."


A Microsoft logo is seen on an office building in New York City, July 28, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Segar