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Features December 13, 2015

Two Spotify execs discuss new parental leave policy

Former Editor
Two Spotify execs discuss new parental leave policy

Late last month Spotify updated its parental leave policy to become one of the more progressive tech companies in Australia. Its move to increase its maternity and paternity leave policy by 20% for parents in Australia, giving all full timers six months parental leave on full pay, is more than that offered by Google, Apple and YouTube.

SVOD service Netflix offers its employees unlimited paid leave during the first year, beating out Spotify by six months, but as SpotifyAustralia Managing Director Kate Vale tells TMN, the new policy is more about internally asserting the mindset of its employees.

“I think when you look at the overall cost benefit analysis of something like this, I think one you’ll find that it’ll help retain staff – and it’s very costly to replace staff,” says Vale at Spotify’s Sydney office. “But I also just think attracting the right talent is so important, and with a policy like this, we are already an employer of choice, but we’ll definitely be more so now.”

Spotify hasn’t reported what the initial cost to the business will be, but Vale says the benefits over time will eventually position the company favourably.

“I think long-term when we weigh it all up, I think we’ll be way ahead.”

The policy was established from the culture and values developed in its native Sweden, where previously parental leave was subsidised by the Government up to 80% and is now subsidised 100% by Spotify.

Australia is a notoriously late bloomer when it comes to parental leave; Sweden brought in paid parental leave in 1974, while Australia’s scheme was introduced in January 2011. According to AdNews, since the paid parental leave scheme was introduced in Australia, just 500 males have taken it up.

Jim Butcher, Spotify’s Communications Director, Asia Pacific enjoyed six months paid leave in Sweden when his daughter Emma was born. He tells TMN he believes the fact dads are less likely to take paid parental leave comes down to Australia’s late adoption of the concept.

“’How much time am I given, either from the Government or my company?’ ‘Can I afford it?’ These are questions many new dads may not know the answer to at the outset,” he says. “One of the most common reasons for not taking leave would be the concern around your job role changing or being taken over in your absence, which is why certain rules need to be put in place by companies to ensure your job security/fair treatment on return to full time work.”

Butcher says the benefits of offering sabbaticals or extended parental leave alongside financial support are only now beginning to be understood by certain companies and cultures. In his case, he learned how to respect the role of a stay at home parent (“You barely get 30 minutes a day to gulp down food”) and the importance of bonding with his child.

“I feel like I’m a better dad for the experience and better at my job, safe in the knowledge I’ve done the best for my family.”

Since the new policy’s introduction last month, two Australian employees, both dads, currently have the opportunity to take advantage of the six months leave.

The media coverage has already started its ripple effect locally: “I got a text message this morning from the CEO of a major agency group in Australia,” says Vale, “who said to me ‘Kate, ground-breaking. I would love to catch up and talk to you about how we can do that in our agency’.”

Spotify hopes to be the test case for Australia and the music industry, and while most of Spotify Australia’s senior positions are held by females, it’s introduction could speed up change at unbalanced companies where miserly parental leave policies, or policies which aren’t encouraged, have led to less women in senior roles.

“I do hope that as a result of us introducing this it will start rubbing off onto other companies around Australia, corporate and the music industry as well,” said Vale. “[…] We can encourage amazing women, and attract amazing women to our organisation, which I’m pretty sure we will do.”


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