image by ClareElsaesser

Editor's note: This article was originally published in the Etsy News Blog on May 15, 2015.

Beginning in April, we will take a significant step forward in our parental leave policy. Etsy employees will be eligible for 26 weeks of fully paid leave when they become a parent through birth or adoption, regardless of their gender, country of residence or family circumstance.

We designed our new parental leave policy to be flexible, gender-blind and to counteract unconscious bias. We want to support and enable parents, regardless of their gender, to play equal roles in building successful companies and nurturing their families. This fits squarely within Etsy's mission to reimagine commerce in ways that build a more fulfilling and lasting world.

This is a policy that our leadership team unanimously supports. We believe that what's good for families is good for business. “When my wife and I adopted our son nearly four years ago, I took the full five weeks of leave we offered at the time,” says Chad Dickerson, Etsy CEO. “It was the most important way I could have spent that time. Building a company is a team effort that includes the immense support we get from our families. I'm excited that our new leave policy will strengthen families and, as a result, the company as a whole.”

Today, we're sharing the thinking behind our program publicly to foster open dialogue with our community, corporate leaders and policymakers to advance societal equity and wellbeing.

How We Made This Decision

The last year has brought a lot of positive change to family leave policies within the tech industry in the U.S. A generous, fully-paid parental leave policy is a competitive necessity for a company like Etsy. The goal of attracting and retaining the best talent is not, however, the only reason to craft a policy like ours.

Our goal was to position Etsy for the long-term, given the changes happening in family structures, roles and workplace culture globally. We also wanted to align our internal policies with the spirit of our marketplace, which offers a more fulfilling, flexible way to be a creative entrepreneur.

Research shows that both mothers and fathers face biases and unique pressures at work. Compared to women without children, mothers are half as likely to be recommended for a promotion and offered an average of $11,000 less in salary. Fathers who take leave also experience lower performance ratings and steeper reductions in future earnings. This is wrong-headed. As a business, Etsy needs people who are clear on our priorities, motivated, and focused on achieving our long-term goals and we know that being a parent is not mutually exclusive to being this type of employee. In fact, we believe that policies that retain talented parents strengthen our overall employee base.

Designing a Values-Aligned Program

All parents at Etsy can take their 26 weeks of leave over the two years following the birth or adoption of their child. At least eight of those weeks must be taken continuously in the first six months. Studies show that early caregiving time is critical for all parents to feel bonded and competent in the long term, and these eight weeks also provide crucial recovery time for mothers who have given birth. The remaining 18 weeks can be scheduled flexibly over two years.

We are assisting our managers with leave planning, internal movements and reorganizations as necessary in our fast-growing business. We are also educating them on how to avoid workplace bias against mothers and fathers, and how to support their employees' career aspirations through this period of life change.

Equal Access to Benefits

Many traditional parental leave policies don't treat people equally, including single parents, adoptive parents and parents who use surrogates. While we recognize the unique toll of giving birth, we believe that all members of a family benefit from generous, inclusive leave. We're proud to be a pioneer in building a diverse, inclusive workplace and helping to shape how U.S.-based companies think about parental leave and gender equality.

We believe parental leave policies like ours are just one step towards a more fulfilling, lasting world. Our policy is premised on the traditional employer-employee relationship in the U.S. We applaud the efforts of leaders like New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has proposed a paid family leave program for all workers in the state, similar to programs in California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Washington, and Washington, DC. We're also mindful that many Etsy sellers are independently employed, like more and more workers today, which is why we advocate for portable benefits. Our hope is that policy makers and future business leaders find a way to provide a stable and flexible safety net for all people.
You can read more about the research that informed our decision in our companion post: 5 Facts That Support Gender-Blind Parental Leave.