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Adobe rolls out an extended paid leave program for new parents

Software maker to begin offering new mothers up to 26 weeks of paid leave from their jobs, following similar policy updates made last week by Netflix and Microsoft.

Adobe announced a new parental-leave policy it hopes will increase workplace retension. Adobe

A new tech company has joined the progressive fold, offering extended paid time off for employees who become new parents.

Adobe Systems, a software maker and Silicon Valley fixture for more than three decades, will offer new parents up to 26 weeks of paid time off through a combination of medical and parental leave. The new benefit begins November 1, the company said in a blog post.

Following similar extensions by Netflix and Microsoft last week, Adobe is the latest Silicon Valley influencer to adopt a stance on family culture. Its updated policy ranks as one of the most generous in an industry fiercely competing to attract and retain talented employees. Tech is notoriously male-dominated with a rigorous work ethos, so companies making socially conscious efforts -- like dramatically improved parental leave programs -- might speak to an industry trend.

The US is the only developed country that doesn't guarantee paid maternity or parental leave to workers, according to a report from the Guardian last year. The UK guarantees 39 weeks of paid leave for mothers, two of which are mandatory. Australia offers 18 weeks, while Mexico gives mothers 12 weeks of paid leave, reimbursed at 100 percent of their salary.

In the void of federal leave regulations stateside, companies here have begun setting their own standards.

"We join an industry movement to better support our employees while striving towards increased workforce diversity," Adobe Vice President of Human Resources Donna Morris said in the announcement Monday. Of the company's 13,500 employees, about 70 percent are male, Morris said in an interview -- a ratio well above average in Silicon Valley. Still, she said this new policy is aimed at improving gender diversity.

Last week, Netflix announced "unlimited" paid time off to employees during their first year as new parents. Microsoft followed up by its extending leave for new moms and dads up to 12 weeks with full pay. Facebook offers new parents four months of paid leave, as well as $4,000 in cash. And Apple offers expectant mothers up to four weeks of paid leave prior to delivery and 14 weeks after.

Federal law requires many companies in the US to offer at least 12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. And 21 percent of US organizations offer paid maternity leave, but just 2 percent of US organizations offer unlimited paid leave like Netflix.

But some experts say that such policies might only start taking shape once upper management and executives set the example. They warn that policies like unlimited time off may actually backfire in work-intensive environments like tech, where engineers are constantly trying to look good.

Karen Cates, who teaches about executive leadership at Northwestern University, told Marketplace last week, that "in practice, what's going to happen is that folks who decide to take longer [time off] are probably going to wind up working from home."

But Morris said Adobe has "a great track-record of role models" in leadership positions. She cited a chief financial officer who just returned from a month-long sabbatical, a provision offered on five-year cycles for employees.

Adobe's new paid leave policy includes up to 10 weeks of paid medical leave for surgery, childbirth, a medical emergency or illness; 16 weeks of paid time for moms and dads (26 weeks total for moms); and up to four weeks of paid time to care for a sick family member.

Morris said the new policy is in large part an attraction and retention tool to score Silicon Valley's "very best talent" in a "very competitive market."

She said Adobe's thousands of employees are the company's core assets: "Those are actual people who leave us everyday and they go home."

Now those people can be at home -- with their families -- quite a bit longer.