New parents at Intel will now get eight paid weeks of “bonding” leave, the company announced on Friday. The leave can be used by both mothers and fathers and is in addition to the 13 paid weeks of maternity it already offered.
The new leave can be taken any time within the first year after the birth, adoption, or foster care placement of a child.
The company said the new leave is part of its new effort to increase diversity, in which it announced that it would increase the share of female, black, Hispanic, and other minority groups of employees by at least 14 percent over the next five years to make it better reflect the general population. It also created a $300 million fund for diversity efforts over the next three years, creating scholarships and supporting historically black colleges and universities in order to attract women and people of color to technology and make the workplace more friendly to them.
The new paid leave has the potential to have the impact it seeks in attracting and retaining female employees. After Google was concerned that it was losing talented women, it lengthened its paid maternity leave from three months to five and its attrition rate fell by 50 percent. In general, paid family leave helps keep women in the workforce and even bring more into it. And while the country doesn’t have a national paid family leave program, in two states that do businesses say it hasn’t hurt their bottom lines and many have seen benefits like lower turnover.
Technology companies have become known for generous benefits, including paid leave. Beyond Google and Intel, Instagram, reddit, and Facebook offer new mothers and fathers 17 paid weeks; Yahoo offers new mothers 16 paid weeks and new fathers eight. Change.org recently announced it would increase paid leave for both parents from six weeks to 18.
But they are the exception, not the rule, in the American economy. Unlike 185 other countries, the United States doesn’t require companies to offer paid maternity leave, and 70 others require paid paternity leave, although three states have passed their own programs. That leaves just 12 percent of American workers with access to paid family leave through their employers. And while the Family and Medical Leave Act requires some employers to offer 12 unpaid weeks, less than half of the workforce is covered by it.
The problem has attracted federal attention. Last year, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) introduced the FAMILY Act, which would create a paid family program for all workers. And just this week, President Obama called for expanded family leave for federal workers and will include money in his budget to help states create their own programs. But so far the FAMILY Act hasn’t moved forward.