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Facebook's COO On The Company's New Employee Leave Policy


Some - not all - but some workplaces offer paid time off for women who've had a baby. But what about employees who need to take care of a sick parent or spouse? Historically, they haven't had much access to paid leave, but companies are beginning to expand parental leave policies to be more inclusive of other kinds of caregiving. And one of those companies is Facebook. Here to talk about the new benefits announced last week is Facebook's chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg.

Thanks so much for being with us today.

SHERYL SANDBERG: Thank you for having me.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: As of this week, your employees can take up to six weeks off, paid, to care for a sick relative. And they can take 20 days off, again paid - I have to emphasize this - to grieve the death of a loved one. You have 16,000 employees, if I'm not wrong, at Facebook. These are very expensive policies. Why is this worth it?

SANDBERG: Well, we think it's not just the right thing to do but the smart thing to do. You know, on the bereavement leave, I've been through this myself. And the loss of an immediate family member is obviously a very life-changing thing. And so we just thought about it and thought that we really wanted to give people even more time, if they wanted to take it, so that they could process and come back to work, you know, feeling as ready as possible.

The six weeks of paid family leave is also really important. We think it's the right thing to do so people have - don't have to choose between being a good family member and a good employee. But we also think it's the smart thing to do, and I think we're hoping other companies decide it's the smart thing to do and follow because if we treat our employees well, they are more dedicated to the company - I think they work better; I think they work smarter; I think they work more efficiently.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Obviously, your company operates in a competitive space. And, you know, you're vying for the best and the brightest. Silicon Valley has kind of become synonymous, in a way, with sort of gold-plated benefits. But I can imagine someone in a smaller company thinking, all right, that's fine for Facebook to do, but in less-skilled and less-competitive industries, it's going to be too expensive. It's going to be too difficult.

SANDBERG: Different companies and different industries have different margins. And by us doing this ourselves, you know, there's no requirement for any company in any industry of every size to do this. But we believe that every company should really stretch and do as much as they can. I also personally feel that, you know, a lot of these leave areas are ones where we don't have the federal and state public policies we should have in place. We're one of the only countries in the world with no paid maternity leave at all. That's not where we want to be as the United States.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Specifically in this area of paid family leave, what would you like to see at a federal level enacted?

SANDBERG: I'd like to see it be 12 weeks. I'd like to see it cover women and men. I'd like to see it include substantial wage replacement. And I'd want to make sure it did not only cover childbirth but other family needs and other family situations more broadly.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I want to talk a little bit about the effect on women of something like this. There's a well-documented, unintended consequence of generous family leave policies. When you look at Europe, in particular, places that do have the generous leave policies that you mention, women disproportionately take advantage of them and then they face a harder time getting hired and promoted. How do you safeguard against that?

SANDBERG: Well, at Facebook, all of these policies are for men and women. I think probably the most important thing that happened at Facebook was Mark Zuckerberg, our CEO, setting the right example. When he had his baby, Max, he took paternity leave and did it very publicly. I think men need to have the right policies in place, and then we need to encourage men to take it. And there's probably no better way to encourage men to take it than to see someone like a CEO in Mark doing it himself.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: My guest is Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook.

Sheryl Sandberg, thanks so much for being with us today.

SANDBERG: Thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.