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Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

Amazon will offer up to 20 weeks of paid leave for new moms, provide up to six weeks of paid leave for new dads, and offer employees the ability to “share” their paid leave with a spouse.

The changes, announced to employees this morning, boost Amazon’s benefits at a time of intense competition for talent across the tech industry. However, Amazon is also offering the same paid leave benefits to its fulfillment and customer service center workers, who number more than 100,000 people and make up the majority of Amazon’s workforces.

Amazon’s parental leave policy was also one of the factors cited in a widely-read New York Times article about difficult working conditions at the Seattle company. The article included anecdotes that highlighted the struggles of some Amazon employees returning from maternity and illness. However, the company says it decided to make the changes based on an annual review of its benefits program that began in early 2015, independent of any news coverage.

As part of the changes, birth mothers will be able to take up to four weeks of paid pre-partum leave, followed by 10 weeks of paid maternity leave. In addition, the company is instituting a new six-week paid parental leave policy for all parents who have been at the company for at least a year, including moms and dads. The benefits also apply to adoptions.

Previously, Amazon’s policy offered eight weeks of paid leave to new moms, and 12 weeks of unpaid leave. Fathers, meanwhile, did not receive any paid days off.

In addition, Amazon’s new “Leave Share” program allows employees to effectively pass along their paid leave benefits to their spouses, including same-sex couples. Here’s how the company explained the new program in its message to employees this morning.

One thing we hear from new mothers at Amazon is that they wish their spouse or partner could also take paid time off from work. That can be difficult because more than 80% of American companies don’t provide any paid parental leave. To help families address the financial challenge of taking unpaid time off, we’ve invented a new program called Leave Share, which allows you to share all or a portion of your six-week parental leave with a spouse or partner who doesn’t have paid leave through his or her employer.

Here’s an example. Julia is an associate at an Amazon Fulfillment Center and recently had a baby. She’s taken 10 weeks of paid maternity leave and would like to come back to work. Ideally, she’d like her husband to take some time off at this point, which would make her return to work easier. However, her husband’s employer provides only unpaid paternity leave, and it’s going to be financially difficult for him to take time off. That’s where the Leave Share Program can help. Julia can share all or a portion of her paid parental leave with her husband, and he can stay home and help with their new baby.

While this example describes a birth mother at Amazon sharing her leave benefits with her husband, Leave Share will work the same way for Amazon fathers and same-sex couples. Leave Share is a novel program and we hope it helps provide you and your family with additional flexibility during this special time.

The company says stock benefits will also continue to accumulate for employees during the paid leave period, and the company has created a new “Ramp Back Program” for birth mothers and primary caregivers, allowing them to “ease back to work with up to 8 weeks of flexible time.”

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