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Gates Foundation, heralded for long parental leave, cuts program by half

caption: April 20, 2017 - WASHINGTON DC - Generation Now: How Investing in Adolescents Today Can Change the World of Tomorrow
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April 20, 2017 - WASHINGTON DC - Generation Now: How Investing in Adolescents Today Can Change the World of Tomorrow

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation says it will reduce its paid parental leave program by half -- to help the nonprofit run more smoothly.

On LinkedIn, Steven Rice, the head of human resources at the foundation, wrote that the paid leave program was more disruptive than expected when the policy was announced three years ago. The Gates Foundation had offered a year of paid leave; this move would reduce it to six months.

"On one team, 50 percent of the staff was either on leave or staffed by those in backfill positions, making the regular work of the foundation far more difficult than expected,” Rice wrote.

The foundation made headlines in 2015 when it announced it would offer parents a year off to care for their newborn babies. The foundation was on the cutting edge here in the U.S., which is the only industrialized country that does not require paid parental leave.

The Gates plan was also cutting edge because it offered the benefit to both moms and dads, with the goal of greater gender equity in the workplace and in families. Woman and men were encouraged to take the time to care for their kids.

Women were more likely to take the full year than men; 77 percent versus 41 percent of men.

Parents now may take six months of paid leave, plus a $20,000 stipend to defray childcare costs, which is about $2,500 a month in Seattle for babies under 1.

These benefits are still far more generous than what most Americans receive. Just 13 percent of people working for private employers in the U.S. were eligible for paid parental leave in 2017.

Federal law allows 12 weeks of unpaid time off for parents — both moms and dads — who have worked for an organization for at least one year. Parents may use sick time and vacation time to soften the financial blow of going workout a paycheck.

Many women return to work sooner than 12 weeks however, because they cannot afford to take three months off.

This could change in Washington state, where a new family leave law goes into effect next year. Parents will receive 12 paid weeks to care for their infants. These 12 weeks may be used within the first year of their child’s birth.

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