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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 8/17/15

The Fraud of the New "Family-Friendly" Work

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Reprinted from Robert Reich Blog


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Netflix just announced it's offering paid leave to new mothers and fathers for the first year after the birth or adoption of a child. Other high-tech firms are close behind.

Some big law firms are also getting into the act. Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe is offering 22 paid weeks off for both male and female attorneys.

Even Wall Street is taking baby steps in the direction of family-friendly work. Goldman Sachs just doubled paid parental leave to four weeks.

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All this should be welcome news. Millennials now constitute the largest segment of the American work force. Many are just forming families, so the new family-friendly policies seem ideally timed.

But before we celebrate the dawn of a new era, keep two basic truths in mind.

First, these new policies apply only to a tiny group considered "talent" -- highly educated and in high demand.

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They're getting whatever perks firms can throw at them in order to recruit and keep them.

"Netflix's continued success hinges on us competing for and keeping the most talented individuals in their field," writes Tawni Cranz, Netflix's chief talent officer.

That Neflix has a "chief talent officer" tells you a lot.

Netflix's new policy doesn't apply to all Netflix employees, by the way. Those in Netflix's DVD division aren't covered. They're not "talent."

They're like the vast majority of American workers -- considered easily replaceable.

Employers treat replaceable workers as costs to be cut, not as assets to be developed.

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Replaceable workers almost never get paid family leave, they get a few paid sick days, and barely any vacation time.

If such replaceables are eligible for 12 weeks of family leave it's only because the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (which I am proud to have implemented when labor secretary under Bill Clinton) requires it.

But Family and Medical leave time doesn't come with pay -- which is why only 40 percent of eligible workers can afford to use it. And it doesn't cover companies or franchisees with fewer than 50 employees.

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Robert Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor and Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, has a new film, "Inequality for All," to be released September 27. He blogs at www.robertreich.org.

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