Parental Leave– When is long too long?

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has long offered one of the most generous paid leaves in the U.S. (an unfairly weighted honor considering the dismal competition) However, they announced last week that they are reducing the time they offer from one year to six months. Before we excoriate them on social media it’s worth a deeper look at the reason why: one year of paid leave was too hard on their current employees and did not have a positive lasting impact on the advancement and retention of talent.


Among the myriad debates about parental leave is the argument about what length of time is most effective. The norm in the US is twelve weeks unpaid leave– though California Governor Gavin Newsom recently proposed offering six months. The Gates Foundation found that while three months is too short, one year is too long. The longer leave was difficult for employees to hand off work and it was hard to re-assimilate back into a changed organization. Six months seems to be the de-facto timeframe that is not too short for families and not too long for companies.


There are more factors than what timeframe is best for families including:

financial assistance for childcare

gender-neutral parental leave

flexible schedules

paid sick days. 

Acknowledging that the issue is not just about time off, the Gates Foundation is also giving a $20,000 stipend to help with childcare costs.  You can read more about this story in the New York Times Upshot.  To find out how The Second Shift works with companies to provide fill-ins for workers out on parental leave please reach out to Let us help you support your current workers, and look good doing it.