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No Job Left Behind: How Companies Are Creating Perks That Only Benefit the Privileged

Many of us have been rejoicing in the great strides American companies have taken to strike down workaholic policies and embrace a work-life balance that many European countries have had it place for decades. Recently Netflix wowed us with their “unlimited” maternity and paternity leave (which is capped to the 1st year after the child’s birth or adoption), which kicked off Adobe’s announcement of offering up to 26 weeks paid time off for maternal leave, and no doubt will continue the trend of tech companies wooing the upcoming Millennial talent with family perks.

However, the majority of these perks apply to only full-time employees, and some only to full-time salary employees. So who do not receive perks?

  • Stan who works for Tech Company A at their shipping location doesn’t get any time off to help take care of his wife and brand new daughter.
  • Kiara who answers the phones at the front office desk has only her saved up vacation days to spend with her newly adopted son.
  • Kayla, a full-time contract worker,  who has to save up all her sick days and vacation days to have time off for the birth of her first child.

So who do the perks benefit? Employees with highly-sought after job roles who already have perks such as paid time off, sick leave, and are eligible for FMLA (which is 6 weeks unpaid leave as mandated by the government). Most of these employees are already highly privileged; their income puts them in much higher income brackets than Stan or Kiara, and they likely have more years of education as well.

These policies that benefit only the valuable/”irreplaceable” employees create a larger wealth gap in our society.  Because Stan, Kiara, and Kayla are not eligible for the new time off policy, they have to take unpaid time off when they need the income the most, while their wealthier coworkers can take time off and do not see a decrease in their paycheck.

I’m not sure what the solution is. It certainly isn’t to say if one person can’t have paid leave than nobody should.  It’s more that if one person does, why not give it to the other person as well?  (See also: government-supported and mandated parental leave which works just fine for all European and Canadian corporations.)

All I know is that while these companies make great strides in parental leave, it’s only for an already privileged few. A little something to remind ourselves when we’re celebrating our progressive, family-friendly policy successes.


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