The Swedish flatpack furniture and home goods giant Ikea announced on Thursday that it had agreed to acquire TaskRabbit, an online gig economy marketplace where customers can hire freelance help with day-to-day chores. According to Recode’s Kara Swisher and Theodore Schleifer, the acquisition “was fueled by Ikea’s need to further bolster its digital customer service capabilities” in order to keep up with major competitors like Amazon:
The purchase is Ikea’s first step into the on-demand platform space. TaskRabbit had already struck a pilot partnership with Ikea around furniture assembly in the United Kingdom and also had marketed its workers’ ability to put together Ikea items in the U.S. and elsewhere.
But a purchase of TaskRabbit will get Ikea even more deeply into the tech space, although it has not been without some tech innovation of late. The company — which has sales of more the $36 billion annually and 183,000 workers — recently announced an initiative to shift its 389 stores worldwide to electric car transportation and infrastructure.
TaskRabbit has only 65 employees, but some 60,000 “taskers” use the platform, which allows them to specify their own hourly rates for everything from handyman work to moving services to home cleaning. None of its employees will be laid off in the acquisition, the New York Times reports, and TaskRabbit plans to expand. That’s not surprising, given that the market for on-demand household help is growing overall:
Toward the end of 2015, the Indian government introduced legislation to increase the statutory amount of paid maternity leave employers must offer new mothers from 12 to 26 weeks for all organizations with more than 10 employees; winding its way slowly through the legislature, the bill was approved by the upper house of parliament in August and cleared its final legislative hurdle when the lower house passed it last Thursday, which as the Times of India notes will give India the world’s third largest paid leave mandate for new mothers, after Canada’s 50 weeks and Norway’s 44.
Mothers are eligible for the full 26 weeks’ leave only after adding the first two children to their family, however; women having a third child are entitled to only 12 weeks, as are those who become mothers through adoption or surrogacy. The bill also directs employers to offer work-from-home options to mothers on their staff if the nature of the work permits it, and mandates that enterprises with 50 or more employees provide access to creches or daycare facilities for working mothers.
The law does not address paternity leave, but the Times points out that the subject came up in the parliamentary debate over the bill, with some MPs arguing that it would put women at a disadvantage in the job market to make paid leave mandatory for mothers and not fathers, effectively discouraging employers from hiring women for fear of having to give them extra benefits:
Starting January 1, the Swedish modular furniture retailer Ikea will begin offering all US employees who have worked at least a full year with the company three months of paid parental leave, including six weeks at full pay and another six weeks at half pay, the Associated Press reports. New parents who have been at Ikea more than three years can take up to four months. Additionally, Ikea is now offering long-term employees unpaid sabbaticals of up to a year, depending on their tenure with the company, with guaranteed .
The policy applies to all employees—hourly and salaried, mothers and fathers, biological and adoptive parents, gay and straight—and can be combined with any short-term disability leave the employee may qualify for, meaning birth mothers may be able to take up to six months of fully or partly paid leave in total, the Huffington Post’s adds:
Nabeela Ixtabalan, the company’s head of human resources in the U.S., said Ikea looked at research on paid leave programs in order to shape its own. For instance, the decision to offer the first half of the leave at full pay was influenced by a finding from a Boston College study on paternity leave. The vast majority of respondents in a survey said that they wouldn’t use the leave unless at least 70 percent of their salaries were paid.
“We looked at a lot of external research,” Ixtabalan said. “We asked what would people need to take it.” …
Beth Kowitt at Fortune talks to Ikea’s US president Lars Petersson—whose title of Country Manager “lacks so much conceit that it confuses Americans”—about how the modular furniture maker retains its quintessentially Scandinavian attitudes toward fairness, inclusivity, and work-life balance in an American context: