It's a disheartening fact that the U.S. is one of the handful of nations that does not guarantee paid maternity or paternity leave. Some major American employers have filled the gap with generous leave packages for new parents and joining the growing list is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, whose parental leave program will offer up to 52 weeks of paid time off for new mothers and fathers in the event of a birth or adoption.
"This will enable parents to participate more fully in their children's lives, while also allowing them the flexibility and financial certainty to meet the needs of their growing families," said Steven Rice, chief human resources officer of the foundation, in a statement posted on LinkedIn on Friday.
The largest private foundation in the world — whose humanitarian work has contributed to developments like the first-ever malaria vaccine — joins the likes of Netflix, Yahoo and Microsoft in offering extended parental leave.
But resistance from Republican lawmakers in passing such legislation means that the U.S. is the only developed country in the world where paid maternity and paternity leave is not guaranteed under federal law, alongside Swaziland, Lesotho and Papua New Guinea.
While the foundation declined to give out more details — such as whether the new policy applies to employees outside the U.S., too — it is a start.
Rice added in the statement that the foundation's goal is to help its employees who are parents to be able to thrive both professionally and with their families. "Ultimately," he said, "our parental leave program is focused on healthier babies, parents who are able to thrive professionally, and strong and resilient families."
Cover image via Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images