Microsoft Introduces Family Caregiver Leave

Microsoft Introduces Family Caregiver Leave

Microsoft this week became the latest major US employer to introduce a paid leave program for employees who need to take time off to care for sick or disabled family members. EVP of Human Resources Kathleen Hogan announced the new benefit in a LinkedIn blog post on Tuesday:

Family caregiver leave allows an employee to take up to four weeks of fully paid leave to care for an immediate family member with a serious health condition. To date, we have onboarded 22 countries with this new benefit—and today it is now available to all U.S.-based employees. We will onboard the remaining countries over the coming months, ensuring it’s available to all our employees across the globe.

This important new benefit represents a significant milestone in our effort to build a culture of diversity and inclusion, and it demonstrates our deep commitment to employee wellbeing and care, and respect for the full career journey.

Several other large employers have added similar benefits in the past year. Last September, Deloitte began offering its employees 16 weeks of paid family leave for caregiving, and Facebook rolled out a caregiving leave benefit, as well as bereavement leave, in February. Other companies make paid time of for caregiving available through their PTO, family leave, or discretionary leave policies, Fortune’s Barb Darrow adds:

Several tech companies offer unlimited paid time off (PTO) or discretionary time off that could be used for family care, according to Challenger Gray & Christmas, a Chicago firm that tracks employment and benefits trends. These companies include Netflix and Hubspot. LinkedIn, the business focused social network which Microsoft bought last year, has offered its U.S. employees six weeks of paid family care leave since 2014. …

John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas said companies are very concerned about recruiting and retaining top talent. “They ask employees what they want and need and what they hear is people want help with work life balance,” he said.

Indeed, as the baby boomer generation ages, their working adult children—usually daughters—are being forced in growing numbers to juggle work and elder care responsibilities, as well as child care. Caregiving leave is popular among employees and has numerous potential benefits for an organization: It can help alleviate stress and improve productivity, retain valuable employees who might otherwise drop out of the workforce, and support women in particular by helping them avoid costly career breaks, thus potentially narrowing the gender pay gap.

No doubt Microsoft had these benefits in mind when it decided to roll out this new benefit, but as Monica Nickelsburg notes at GeekWire, it’s also getting ahead of likely legislation in its home state of Washington that would make this type of leave obligatory for employers:

Microsoft’s existing benefits for U.S. employees include 12 weeks of paid parental leave, paid gym memberships, and charitable donation matching. The new caregiver leave policy would make Microsoft automatically compliant with a new state-wide mandate that’s under consideration in Olympia.

Lawmakers are getting close to a deal that would require employers in Washington state to offer 12 weeks of paid leave to care for a new child or ailing family member or to recover from a disabling injury. If passed, the policy would provide workers in Washington with the best-paid family leave benefits in the nation. The Seattle City Council is also considering a city-wide family leave mandate.