The employee experience at Microsoft: Aligning benefits to our culture

When I look at how rapidly the traditional workplace is changing, not just at Microsoft, but throughout business in general, I see a tremendous opportunity for companies to put a stake in the ground around what they believe in and what kind of culture they want to build together with employees. This is certainly the case with Microsoft, as we evolve our culture to one that embodies a growth mindset and that embraces diversity and inclusion.

As we ask our employees to bring their “A” game to work every day to achieve our mission, we believe it’s our responsibility to create an environment where people can do their best work. A key component of this is supporting our employees with benefits that matter most to them. This is why today we’re announcing enhancements to our U.S. corporate employee benefits in three areas that employees consistently rank among the most important: having time to renew; saving for the future; and flexibility needed to spend time with new children.

Enhanced Parental Leave for mothers and fathers

Today we provide eight weeks of fully paid maternity disability leave for new mothers, plus 12 weeks of Parental Leave for all parents of new children, of which four are paid and eight unpaid. For these parents to bring their best every day, they need time to take care of themselves and their family. In recognition of this, we are making some significant enhancements to our Parental Leave practices, effective Nov. 1, 2015.

Specifically, we’re enhancing our paid Parental Leave to 12 weeks, paid at 100 percent, for all mothers and fathers of new children. For birth mothers, this is in addition to the eight weeks of maternity disability leave they currently receive, paid at 100 percent, enabling them to now take a total of 20 weeks of fully paid leave if they choose.

Additionally, we’ll offer birth mothers an expanded opportunity to use Short-Term Disability Leave during the two weeks prior to their scheduled due date to manage the physical impact that often comes with late pregnancy and to prepare for the upcoming birth.

We will also offer flexibility for when eligible parents can take leave. Eligible parents will now have the option to take their Parental Leave either in one continuous 12-week period or split into two periods. These parents will also have the option to phase back into work on a half-time basis.

Holidays & 401(k) changes

Beyond our new Parental Leave policy, we’re responding to additional employee feedback by making enhancements in two key areas, effective Jan. 1, 2016:

  • Additional paid holidays: Beginning in 2016, we’ll add Martin Luther King Day and Presidents Day to our list of Microsoft holidays in the U.S. This creates two new company-wide breaks that align to the federal calendar and create time for us to pause in the lengthy period between New Year’s Day and Memorial Day. We now offer 12 paid holidays (which includes two floating holidays), in addition to paid vacation time that employees accrue. We believe this will provide employees with more opportunity to take time to recharge and invest that time in ways that are meaningful to them, while honoring Dr. King and U.S. presidents.
  • Increased 401(k) match: Retirement readiness is an important part of overall financial wellness, so beginning Jan. 1, 2016, we’ll increase the company’s 401(k) match from 50 percent of the first 6 percent that employees defer, to 50 percent of all regular deferrals. With the current IRS regular deferral limit of $18,000, this means employees will have the opportunity for Microsoft to match their contributions up to $9,000 per year. This will allow employees to save more through this tax-advantaged savings vehicle and grow their retirement savings faster.

As we make changes in the U.S., we will continue to review what’s offered in each country and work to align to our global benefits philosophy and the local regulations and dynamics in each market. Our U.S. retail employees will also see enhanced benefits, similar to those announced today, based on existing retail pay and benefit structures.

The people of Microsoft truly are what make our company great. These changes are in direct support of the culture we aspire to have — one that allows people to build meaningful careers. We will continue to listen to employee feedback to establish benefits and build an overall employee experience that raises the bar in our industry, creates a more inclusive environment, and recognizes the importance of our people to the continued success of Microsoft.