How Spotify Welcomes Back New Parents

Music streaming service Spotify bridges the gap between parental leave and the return to work with a rare benefit — a structured Welcome Back program for parents.

 

In just the last few years, the availability of company-paid parental leave has skyrocketed, particularly in the tech sector. In August 2015, Netflix made headlines by offering employees “unlimited” parental leave in the first year after childbirth or adoption, and many companies leapt at the chance to offer a competing benefit. In fact, the Society of Human Resource Management found that the number of companies offering paid maternity leapt from 12 percent in 2014 to 21 percent in 2015.

     Spotify’s New York City office (Photo: Spotify)

While gains in paid parental leave are emerging at the company level, there’s been little talk of what happens when leave ends, and parents return to work. The digital music streaming service Spotify has taken on that aspect of the parental leave conversation by introducing a flexible “Welcome Back” program to help ease the transition back to work with options including working from home, on a part-time basis, or with flexible hours for the month after their parental leave.

“We know that following a period of parental leave, the transition back to work can be tricky,” wrote Katarina Berg, Spotify’s chief human resources officer. “We wanted our employees to be able to spend important time with their family. We believe this is good for them, for Spotify, and for society.”

Paid leave and a well-planned transition back into work are indeed helpful for mothers who plan to continue working after the birth of their children. Researchers at the Center for Women and Work at Rutgers University note that women who are forced to quit their jobs during pregnancy, due to lack of job protection or because they require more leave than FMLA offers, struggle to re-enter the workforce. But, their research also showed that women who took a paid leave after the birth of a child were 93 percent more likely to be employed at nine to 12 months postpartum, and women who took a paid leave of 30 days or more were 54 percent more likely to report wage increases in the year following the child’s birth than women who took no leave.

Spotify — a co-host and sponsor of the annual Women in Tech event — is committed to diversity in their workforce and believes that providing an adaptable parental leave and flexible re-entry program help ensure that, Berg says. Its parental leave program itself is already substantial, with up to six months’ leave, at 100 percent pay, available at any time up to a child’s third birthday. Employees are encouraged to take the full time off, Berg says, with the option of taking it all at once or splitting it up.

Katarina Berg (Photo: Spotify)

Americans are notoriously bad at using paid time off, leaving 429 million vacation days unused per year, according to Project Time Off, which highlights the dangers of overworking and calls employees who waste their vacation days “work martyrs.” That hesitance to use paid time off extends to parental leave, stemming from a perceived pressure to get back to work as soon as possible, according to The New York Times.

But Berg is confident that employees of London-based Spotify — even the American employees — will take advantage of the generous leave and the flexible Welcome Back program. “This policy best defines who we are as a company,” Berg wrote, “born out of a Swedish culture that places an emphasis on a healthy work/family balance, gender equality and the ability for every parent to spend quality time with the people that matter most in their lives.”

“We strongly believe that when people grow, we as a company grow,” Berg says. “And when people develop, our company develops. It is not much more complicated than that.”