Amazon boosts paid leave for new parents

After facing a bad press on its working conditions for its staff, Amazon is boosting its maternity benefit to up to 20 weeks of paid leave, joining several other tech companies in expanding benefits to retain hard-to-find technical talent.

The company sent an internal email yesterday outlining the changes, which will come into effect on 1 January and apply to babies born or adopted since 1 October.

Under the policy, new parents of either gender who had worked at Amazon for at least a year would get six weeks of paid leave which was applicable to parents and foster parents who adopted children.

Added to the 10 weeks birth moms were offered, plus four weeks of medical leave some moms qualified for, some of those mothers now had up to 20 weeks of paid time off.

This is also the first instance of Amazon offering paid time off for new fathers.

Amazon also introduced a ''leave share program'' under which employees can gift all or part of the six-week leave to a spouse or partner who did not have paid parental leave through his or her own work.

This meant the Amazon employee would come back to work, while his or her partner could get paid by Amazon to stay home and care for the child.

Amazon had earlier attracted heavy criticism for its workplace environment, with allegations that included penalising returning mothers.

According to commentators, Amazon's policy was notable for its inclusion of the company's 100,000 warehouse and customer support workers.

Netflix, which introduced similar benefits had excluded a large contingent of fulfillment center employees from its policy. However, Amazon's policy was still restricted to employees who worked 30 plus hours a week, and did not appear to include temporary or contract workers.

Amazon also announced a new return-to-work programme called 'Ramp Back', which offered returning employees a graduated return process.

Employees had the option of working at half pay for eight weeks, three-quarters pay for four weeks, or three-quarters for eight weeks.

Reduced-hour work would, however, impact base pay, signing bonus payments, and stock option vesting.