Netflix upgrades parental leave policy for its DVD workers

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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Netflix is upgrading the parental leave policies covering hundreds of hourly workers in its DVD-by-mail division after being skewered for giving more generous baby benefits to the better-paid engineers and other employees in its more popular Internet video service.

The improvements confirmed Wednesday by Netflix call for its DVD workers to receive up to 12 weeks of full pay after the birth or adoption of a baby. Netflix previously didn't pay fathers after a baby's arrival, and new mothers received two-thirds of their regular paychecks. Adoptions weren't covered at all.

Hourly workers in Netflix's customer service centers are now eligible for paternity leaves with 14 weeks of full pay.

Even with those changes, Netflix's policies still favor the roughly 2,000 workers in the Internet video service that ended September with 69 million worldwide subscribers. The salaried workers on that side of the company's business can take up to a year of parental leave with full pay.

The disparity highlighted an economic chasm that is opening in Silicon Valley as workers with highly sought technical skills reap six-figure salaries and lavish benefits while people in jobs that require less education and training struggle to make ends meet in one of the most expensive places to live in the U.S.

Many of Netflix's roughly 450 DVD workers are paid by the hour and make a fraction of the Internet video service employees. Netflix pay varies widely, ranging from $15 per hour for customer-service representatives to more than $200,000 annually for software engineers, according to information shared by company workers on employer review website

A coalition of six activist groups that had been protesting the divide in Netflix's baby benefits applauded the Los Gatos, California, company, for narrowing the gap while lamenting that management didn't go even further. The coalition says it has gathered more than 100,000 signatures during the past four months in an effort to pressure Netflix into extending the same baby benefits for all its workers.

"It is disappointing that Netflix is continuing their two-tiered system that says some parents deserve more time to bond with their children than others," said Nita Chaudhary, co-founder of UltraViolet, a women's rights group. "We urge Netflix to put all parents on the same playing field, regardless of income, and expand their unlimited parental leave policy to all workers."

In a statement, Netflix Inc. said it's constantly reviewing its policies to ensure it can attract and retain talented employees.

Although Netflix didn't say it, the competition to hire engineers and technology workers is more intense than it is for people to sort through and mail DVDs in distribution centers or staff telephone lines to answer questions from subscribers.

Netflix's DVD division also has been steadily shrinking as more people embrace the concept of watching movies and TV shows any time they want on Internet-connected devices instead of waiting for a disc to be delivered in the mail.

The company ended September with 5 million DVD subscribers, down from nearly 14 million four years ago.

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