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Netflix and parental leave: Today a PR move. Hopefully tomorrow, the norm?

Back to work! (Jamie Davis Smith)

Netflix announces it will offer up to a year of a flexible leave policy for new parents. Vodaphone offers workers returning from maternity leave a temporary part-time schedule with full-time pay. IBM will ship traveling worker-moms’ breast milk home. will offer 18 weeks of paid leave for anyone who becomes a parent.

Is there a chipping away at the lack of paid-leave policies that don’t exist in this country? Piece by piece, perhaps, companies are finding ways to make work work for parents. And, more clearly, they’re learning that it’s getting them some good attention.

“We’ve hit an amazing spot,” said Julia Beck, founder of Forty Weeks and the It’s Working Project, who helps companies figure out how to get women and parents back into the workplace. She hopes (as many of us do) that this will be the new norm. But “are these going to be flashes of media? Or is it going to be the true new normal?” she asked.

These policies certainly stir up questions of how they will work. But what is clear is that they’re making other companies stand up and listen.

As Business Insider and Slate’s XX blog noted about Netflix, which announced the newest of these (mostly) applauded policies Tuesday, this isn’t necessarily a new practice. The company offers unlimited time off. The announcement, made in a blog post yesterday, is something of a clarification. And perhaps a sign that a company knows when the public is going to pay attention and stand behind an organization that announces something that seems so new, so cutting edge, so gasp-worthy. And it is all of that because, because this country still doesn’t offer paid maternity leave (unlike pretty much every other nation in the entire world).

IBM recently announced it would pay for traveling mom-workers to ship their pumped breast milk home. The good public relations attention for this move was unrelenting. And how much will this actually cost IBM? Pennies, relatively. A hugely profitable corporation paying to ship milk from a handful (at most) of women who are pumping and traveling? Not a big hit on the earnings reports. And yet, how much is the company getting from not only offering to do this, but also letting the world know?

Vodaphone announced a new leave policy that included allowing new moms to return to work part-time with their full-time salary for six months after returning from leave. “Even in the U.S.” Even.

Companies are doing these things to try to retain good talent. And, of course, for some positive press. But why, why is this such an amazing, unusual and celebrated prospect in 2015?

I’m looking forward to the day a company that has been behind on its leave policies rolls out its big announcement and it’s greeted by crickets.

You might also be interested in:

Are we holding our own daughters back? 5 ways to raise them to be leaders.

Our lack of maternity leave is embarrassing

Why Netflix’s policy might not work for your company

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