Sammy Nickalls
November 03, 2015 11:30 am

It’s been an great week in terms of Amazon news. First, we found out that the major online retailer is opening up a real, live bookshop. “It’s data with heart,” Amazon Books vice president Jennifer Cast told the Seattle Times. “We’re taking the data we have and we’re creating physical places with it.” Now, Amazon has announced even better news: It’s boosting its maternity benefits and introducing paid leave for dads for the first time in the company’s history.

Previously, according to the New York Times, Amazon offered just eight weeks of leave for new mothers and no leave for new fathers. However, the company sent out an internal e-mail yesterday announcing that, effective January 1st, new parents of either gender will be given six weeks paid leave, applicable to birth parents and adoptive parents. Birth moms will be given an extra 10, and some moms qualify for four extra on a medical basis, meaning that some moms working at Amazon will be granted up to 20 weeks leave, Seattle Times reports.

The policy also grants the ability to give all or part of the six-week leave to a partner who does not have paid parental leave through their own place of work, as well as a “flexible return-to-work program” that “give[s]you more time and more choice in how to manage your leave in the way that works best for your family,” New York Times reports.

Currently, only 17% of employers offer fathers paid leave to care for a new child, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. Now that men are spending more time with their children and tech is no longer a brand-new field, heavily populated by pre-parenthood employees, the need for attractive parental leave policies to compete for talent will be important,” Kenneth Matos, senior director of research at Families and Work Institute, told TIME.

This policy update comes after Amazon faced backlash and criticism as a result of a New York Times exposé that outlined its grueling work environment and high-pressure performance expectations. When The Times asked the company if the changes were a reaction to the article, a spokesman responded, “We review our benefit programs annually and began considering our leave policies in early 2015.”

Amazon isn’t the only tech company that’s been changing its policies for new mothers and fathers in a great way. Companies like Netflix, Intel, and Microsoft have expanded their paid leave this year, and it looks as though benefits will only increase. “The war for talent is so incredibly fierce in the tech industry, that (companies) will do anything and everything to attract and keep the very best talent on hand,” Glassdoor community expert Scott Dobroski told Seattle Times.

It’s important to note that the company’s change, though considerably better in comparison to its own history, isn’t much compared to other tech companies, Dobroski explained. “Amazon’s policy can vary from parent to parent, and 20 weeks has actually already been seen by Google and some other companies for a few years,” he told Seattle Times. “So (Amazon) is actually a bit behind chronologically and in terms of perks and benefits.”

This is certainly true, but we are so happy that Amazon is changing its game and making the workplace better only new mothers, but fathers, as well. “My hope,” Matos told TIME, “is that as more companies make these shifts, for whatever reasons, we can reach the tipping point where good parental leave policies become a norm and these kinds of supports are just a cost of doing business in America.”

(Image via iStockPhoto.)

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