The news yesterday that Netflix will offer one year paid leave for new parents was everywhere. A piece on NBC News last night trumpeted the news as another example of high profile employers “leading the way” on progressive employment practices. But is this the beginning of a trend, or the forefront of new regulations or standard for all employers? I doubt it.

Also see: "Netflix offers new parents up to a year of parental leave."

Why? We have to stop and recognize that certain industries will always offer better benefits than others — that has been the consistent trend for over the last 20 years in the tech and pharma industries. Employers in these sectors are doing whatever they can to recruit and maintain the best because it’s the edge in their business. However, the vast majority of employers could never imagine the same. How many of us got stock options when we started working? My mother’s dress shop didn’t 30 years ago, nor did the donut shop I worked at when I was a teenager. The vast majority don’t do it today either. 

Another aspect of this benefit is the “neon effect.” It makes Netflix looks great in headlines, but very, very few employees will actually take a 12 month break from their job. Why? Peer pressure, the worry that a year of absence will leave them behind in the rat race to get ahead, and, for some, the fear that they’ll become bored as a parent. On top of that, most of us (when we first became parents) jacked up the pressure on ourselves to be financially stable and to provide everything we could for our child(ren). I’d bet that five years from now, less than 10% of Netflix’s employees take more than three months away from work because of this witch’s brew of pressure and emotion.

Also see: "Willis, Towers Watson merger: They're not us."

While Netflix made headlines yesterday, very few of us will have an employee come in tomorrow and ask for something similar. They know that the financial cost and impact on day-to-day operations are too great to even expect this — and the reaction from the boss might lead to bigger problems down the road. As much as we talk about generational expectations (baby boomers vs. Gen X vs. millennials), there are some lines that won’t be crossed.

But it does make me jealous that there’s that much money in the video on demand business. Why didn’t I think of that?

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