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Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos discusses his company's new Fire smartphone at a news conference in Seattle, Washington June 18, 201...

Amazon increases parental leave, offers paid paternity leave for first time

Amazon announced to its employees today that it has increased the amount of leave time it is giving to new parents, joining a host of other tech companies that are extending benefits in order to attract top talent.

Amazon’s policy change comes after a blistering New York Times investigation in which the company was lambasted for fostering a harsh work culture. The article included examples of women who felt they were penalized for trying to spend time caring for children or relatives. It’s a portrayal the company disputes.

Under the policy, all new parents, including those who are adopting a child, will get six weeks of paid leave. This means that birth mothers, who already had 10 weeks of leave, will now have 16 weeks of leave time, or 20 if they qualify for an additional four weeks of medical leave. New fathers, who previously did not have paid leave time, will now be able to take paid time off.

Additionally, Amazon is introducing a “leave share program” where employees can give some of their leave to a partner at another company. Under this program if the partner does not have paid parental leave, the Amazon employee returns to work, and the partner will be paid by Amazon to stay home. Returning to work, primary caregivers will have the option of working part-time for their first eight weeks back.

Amazon’s changes also come in the wake of Netflix’s highly publicized policy of giving new parents unlimited time off during the first year after their child’s birth or adoption. Other tech companies such as Facebook, Apple, Google and Yahoo all offer maternity leave of at least 16 weeks for birth mothers, and at least six weeks paternity leave for fathers and non-biological parents.

Companies offering generous parental leave policies are still the exception in America, which is the only developed country in the world that does not offer guaranteed paid parental leave.

The new parental policy applies to full-time workers and will cover more than 100,000 employees.