Men, Women Both Using ‘Gender-Blind’ Parental Leave, Etsy Says

Men and women are equally likely to take time off under Etsy’s new parental leave program, the company has determined after adopting a gender-blind policy last year.

Father and son

The website announced in April 2016 that it was expanding its parental leave program to offer 26 weeks of paid leave to employees for the birth or adoption of a child, regardless of the employee’s gender. Eight of those weeks must be taken continuously during the first 6 months following the child’s birth or adoption. The remaining 18 weeks can be used at any time during the first 2 years.

The company said it decided to provide equal leave to men and women in an effort to create a diverse workforce. “Many traditional parental leave policies don’t treat people equally, including single parents, adoptive parents and parents who use surrogates,” said Juliet Gorman, Etsy’s senior director of culture and engagement, announcing the benefit last year. “While we recognize the unique toll of giving birth, we believe that all members of a family benefit from generous, inclusive leave.”

Etsy cited research showing that men and women both face challenges at work following the birth or adoption of a child. “Compared to women without children, mothers are half as likely to be recommended for a promotion and offered an average of $11,000 less in salary. Fathers who take leave also experience lower performance ratings and steeper reductions in future earnings. This is wrong-headed,” the company said. “As a business, Etsy needs people who are clear on our priorities, motivated, and focused on achieving our long-term goals and we know that being a parent is not mutually exclusive to being this type of employee.”

The Results

Nine months later, Etsy has reported that male and female employees are both taking advantage of the program. Of the 48 employees who have used the new parental leave, half are men and half are women. Women make up about 54% of the company’s workforce, it says.

And Etsy doesn’t believe the leave has negatively affected workers’ careers, it said. “Of those who have taken the new parental leave, 35% have been promoted since April, which means they were promoted either soon before, during or after taking leave,” Gorman reported on January 30. “Of those who were promoted, 41% advanced to director level or above.”

The company noted that the full effect remains to be seen. The policy was adopted less than a year ago and because workers are free to use the leave for 2 years, “we know there’s still much to learn,” Gorman said. For example, Etsy does not yet know how many employees will use all 26 weeks.

Regardless, the company said it is very encouraged by the early results and that it will continue to share information as it becomes available.

Kate TornoneKate McGovern Tornone is an editor at BLR. She has almost 10 years’ experience covering a variety of employment law topics and currently writes for HR Daily Advisor and Before coming to BLR, she served as editor of Thompson Information Services’ ADA and FLSA publications, co-authored the Guide to the ADA Amendments Act, and published several special reports. She graduated from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., with a B.A. in media studies.

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Author: Kate McGovern Tornone