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How Much Parental Leave Is Too Much

February 21, 2019 / Stephen Miller

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation recently announced that, effective later this year, it will halve the amount of paid parental leave it offers employees, reducing it from 52 weeks to 26 weeks. The reduction raises the questions: How much parental leave is enough, and how much may be too much? In 2015, the Gates Foundation, a private philanthropy, expanded its paid-parental-leave benefit from 16 weeks to 52 weeks, available after the birth (including via surrogacy) or adoption of a child, wrote Steven Rice, the foundation's chief HR officer, when he announced the change. Since then, Rice explained, "we have monitored the program and listened to employees—both those who have taken leave and those who have not." Among the lessons learned: "We received feedback and saw in practice that a year away was more disruptive than we anticipated," requiring colleagues or substitute workers to fill in for those on extended leave.