Etsy’s Parental Leave Policy and the 5 Principles that Make it Awesome

 

When you think of Etsy you mind will probably conjure up the image of a marketplace for crafty people to sell their goods and earn some cash. That’s what I thought about the company until last week when they revealed their new parental leave policy. I stopped reading Juliet Gorman’s blog revealing the new policy about half way through so that I could shout “that is freakin’ awesome” across my house.  The rest of the blog was equally as awesome by the way.   Why all my excitement? Well…here’s an outline Etsy’s parental leave policy and you will see why:

 

  • Employees are given 26 weeks of paid parental leave for the birth or adoption of a child (that’s six months)
  •  At least 8 of those weeks must be taken consecutively within the first 6 months of the child’s arrival.
  • The remaining 18 weeks can be used flexibly over a two year period.

 

Although 26 paid weeks of leave is incredible given the culture in the U.S. workplace, there are some deeper lessons we can learn from Etsy’s new practice.  The awesomeness doesn’t just come from the number of paid weeks employees are given.   For me it comes from 5 principles that seem to be behind this decision.

 

  1. Great Work-Life Policies Retain Talent. Etsy’s decision was done in part as a talent-retention strategy. The tech industry has been more progressive in the work-life realm and Etsy realized that they needed to be competitive or ahead of the pack in order to retain talent. Retaining talent also saves money.
  2. Family Situations Are Different Today. Etsy’s decision was also rooted in addressing employee needs given the changing family dynamic that is the reality of our current society. We all know the one income household is a rare beast in today’s society. Family structures are different than they were decades ago and the new policy allows employees enough flexibility to create the best arrangement for their family. This last point is important when you consider that an employee’s partner may not be working at a company with flexible policies or even sufficient benefits to cover income that may be lost as a result of going on parental leave. This paid time off can help bridge gaps in schedules and minimize the financial dilemma many new parents face as a result of unpaid or partially paid parental leaves.  
  3. Research Matters. The decision was rooted in research…..or at least they mention it to explain their decision.   Whether it was about the benefits of bonding with a new child or teaching managers about how to battle workplace biases against employees taking leave, Etsy clearly did some homework on this one. The emerging researcher in me appreciates this.
  4. Walking the Talk. Etsy’s leadership team backs the decision, including their CEO who took the full 5 week paid leave under their old policy when he adopted his son. Having a policy is one thing, but having management support and utilize the policy sends a very positive message to everybody else in the company.
  5. See No Gender. Etsy’s policy is gender-blind. The father in me appreciates that. The smart alleck in me asks “Really? Do some companies still not offer equal parental leave to the parent who did not physically give birth?” Something else for me to research, right?

FINAL THOUGHT….

It is one thing for a company to talk about having a work-life friendly environment or being an employer of choice but it is another thing to step up and create not just policies, but a values-based culture that supports those claims.   Etsy’s actions are an awesome step in an awesome direction and I hope more companies learn from their example.