AeroFS Team

We’re happy to announce that as of last month, AeroFS officially offers paid maternity and paternity leave! In case of birth or adoption of a new child, AeroFS employees of any gender are eligible for:

  • 10 weeks leave, paid at 100% of salary,
  • 8 weeks additional leave, paid at 50% of salary, and
  • 10 weeks additional unpaid leave—or more, if approved

Why do this?

As President Obama reminded us last week, The United States is one of the only developed countries in the world without paid parental leave. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) only requires companies of 50 employees or more to support parental leave at all. Most startups of smaller size do not state that they offer such leave, paid or unpaid, until an employee explicitly asks for it.

There are a variety of reasons why startups take a passive approach, but fundamentally, as Cindy Alvarez, Yammer’s Director of User Experience and Product Design, explained on her blog, waiting until something happens before creating a policy does a disservice to your employees and to your company.

When we decided to put our policy in place, no employee was asking for a leave of absence. We simply decided it was good for our company.

An actual, written-out parental leave policy gives startups:

  • More interest from potential hires, especially senior-level candidates: If you don’t have a policy written out and visible where people can see it, potential candidates will assume you offer nothing. Even saying that your startup will match FMLA’s twelve weeks of unpaid leave is better than nothing.
  • More diverse hiring candidate pool: We chose to make our parental leave policy gender-neutral. This accommodates non-heterosexual couples and adoptive parents from the get-go and helps our employees divvy up childcare however works best for their family. However, we know that in our society parenthood disproportionately affects the careers of women. Women who are birth parents have to deal with the physical disability associated with pregnancy and childbirth. Women are also expected to take on a greater proportion of infant care duties than men. We want to do what we can to help with that by building in flexibility into the system. In addition, hiring technology workers in the Bay Area is hard enough. Why give any talented person who might be considering parenthood in the next few years another reason to choose Google or Facebook instead of our startup?
  • A signal of a mature and empathetic company culture: Parental leave policies indicate that your company anticipates your employees’ needs ahead of time. Given their (unfortunate) rarity among small startups, they also suggest that your company is further along.
  • Fewer sick employees: Many companies make employees save up their sick leave in order to take maternity leave. This is incredibly short-sighted, as it means new parents will have few or no sick days remaining when they return to work. When their adorable little germ factory picks up all the latest bugs at daycare, parent-employees will go to work sick and spread those illnesses. Having a separate parental leave policy helps combat this.
  • Employees better able to focus on work while at work: Not that new parents are exactly refreshed after having a new child, but at least they won’t have to return to work before they’ve physically healed and their new household routine (sleep schedule, daycare, and so forth) has most of the kinks worked out. Studies indicate that parental leave policies positively affect employee morale and loyalty.
  • Lower turnover: After noticing that new moms were twice as likely to quit as other employees, Google lengthened its maternity leave policy to five months. The number of moms quitting dropped by half as a result. A startup’s people are its greatest asset. Even the most generous parental leave policy is cheaper than losing skilled employees and recruiting, interviewing, hiring, and onboarding newcomers. We believe it is basically always better to give skilled employees time off rather than have them leave altogether. AeroFS historically has been flexible with giving employees lengthy sabbaticals or otherwise giving leave that fits people’s needs. Doing so for parents as well makes perfect sense to us.

Your startup’s parental policy may be different than ours, and that’s totally fine. Different companies have different circumstances and different policies that may make sense, but having a policy is important. If you’re thinking about implementing a policy but are not sure where to start, you’re in luck because Cindy Alvarez has already written one for you, so even if you’re too small for an HR department, you can implement one really quickly.

What is your startup’s parental leave policy?

— Karen & The AeroFS Team