Microsoft to Contractors: Provide Paid Maternity Leave

by Nancy Ordman

Microsoft announced that, starting in 2019, it will require its contractors to offer U.S. employees paid maternity leave. This policy pertains to contractors with at least 50 U.S.-based employees that do substantial work involving access to Microsoft’s buildings or computer network. The benefit would provide 66 percent of regular pay up to $1,000 weekly.

The new policy follows the company’s 2015 requirement that contractors provide their employees paid sick days and vacation.

Other tech companies, such as Facebook, have pledged to improve benefits their contractors offer employees. SurveyMonkey, a California company, announced a paid family leave policy for its contract workers last year.

A Washington state law set to take effect in 2020 will guarantee eligible workers 12 weeks of parental leave after the birth or adoption of a child, making it the fifth U.S. state to legislate the benefit. Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft cited this law as inspiration for the new policy.

Microsoft acknowledged that paid family leave is an expensive benefit and that contractors are likely to pass along the costs. The company believes the benefit is worth the cost.

Despite a paid parental leave plan proposed by Ivanka Trump, the federal government lags far behind some companies and a few states in upgrading family benefits.

“Compared to what employers are doing, the government is way behind the private sector,” said Isabel Sawhill, a fellow at the Brookings Institution who has urged the White House and Congress to adopt a national policy.

Microsoft’s new policy “sends a message that something has to happen more systematically at the federal level,” said Ariane Hegewisch, a program director for employment and earnings at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.