🐣 Our new Parental Leave Policy

The policy, the thinking behind it, and how we make decentralized decisions

Sanctuary Computer is a company consisting of humans primarily in their 20s and 30s, and it is only natural to expect that some of these humans will create their own little families one day. No one (except Jake) has a kid, but we aim to proactively put policies in place so it's fair for everyone, and we collectively iterate as the policies get tested. Our goal is to always work towards creating the ideal company that we are all proud to work at. This requires collective input and iteration.

🌱 Sanctuary's Parental Leave Policy

At Sanctuary, we are now offering 16 weeks parental leave at 100% paid salary (regardless if you're a mom or a dad, or non-binary parent). This also includes people adopting or fostering a minor. It's important for all of us that it is equal for all genders, and that there is no distinction between primary and secondary parent, or maternal and paternal leave.

There are no minimum amount of months an employee needs to have worked at Sanctuary before they become eligible for the parental leave. Historically, we have a very low turnover rate with Sanctu's employees, so we trust that we continue to hire good, fun, and loyal people who are here for the right reasons.

This leave policy also allows for flexibility in terms of how to schedule the leave. If an employee has a need or wish to come back to work after 10 weeks (with 6 weeks remaining), they may do so and schedule the remaining parental leave days throughout the year (not calendar year, but from their first leave day). They may also work part time at half pay if that's what the employee needs or wishes to do. This will all be recorded in JustWorks where we also manage our PTO, and holidays.

The only thing we ask is that an employee does not plan to take their sabbatical in the same year that they are on parental leave. At Sanctu, employees are eligible for a sabbatical after 3 years of working at the company. With that being said, it's important that our employees continue to take their annual paid time off days as we know parental leave is hard work and it is in no way considered vacation!

Since the pandemic, we have also started hiring people remote. In the case that an employee pays taxes in a country that is not the US, that employee may have certain benefits in terms of leave and what their government supports or regulates. It is the employee's responsibility to investigate this, and the alternative leave will be discussed on a case by case basis.

Most importantly, all details around an employee's plans for their parental leave needs to be clearly communicated well in advance, and the person going on leave needs to plan their exit well so their teams are set up for success. We believe that this policy and process will ensure that the new parent can take the time they need, and focus on their family.

🔮 The thinking behind it

Sanctuary Computer is a US based company consisting of humans from all around the world. We've got people from the US, Australia, Denmark, Ethiopia, Germany, New Zealand, Sweden, Russia, and South Korea. We have various experiences and expectations around the responsibilities of governments and companies. Sanctuary is based out of New York City, and it turns out that the US is the only developed country without a paid-parental-leave policy. This means that employees in the US have to rely on their state governments and employers to step up and take that responsibility.

In order for us to find a benchmark for our own parental leave policy, we looked at two companies we admire: Basecamp and Patagonia.

Basecamp encourages their employees to take up to 16 weeks maternity leave and up to 6 weeks paternity leave, at 100% paid salary. Single fathers, or primary care givers, can also take up to 16 weeks (source).

Patagonia offers women 16 weeks of paid maternity leave, and men get 12 weeks at 100% paid salary. On top of that, Patagonia has operated an on-site child development center at their headquarters in Ventura, California for more than 35 years, resulting in 95% retention of moms returning to work after leave. They also pay for a caretaker to accompany parents on business trips (source).

With those two examples in mind, we came up with our parental leave policy of 16 weeks which we're proud to say matches both Basecamp and Patagonia. The one significant difference in our policy is that we do not differentiate between parental roles, so each parent gets the same amount of leave (technically making it a more generous leave policy in terms of weeks than Basecamp and Patagonia). This relates to a bigger issue and discussion, which is that historically women tend to take more leave than men (due to societal expectations and the lack of men's participation in parenting) which have had implications to women re-entering the workforce, and salary and value expectations. It's our role and responsibility as an employer to provide an option that doesn't reinforce this gap between men and women in the workforce. We believe that offering a generous paternity leave for dads is a step towards a more gender-equal society.

🏄‍♀️ How we use the experiments process to pass policies

At Sanctuary, we have a process in place when an employee wants to suggest a change or a policy to be implemented at the company. It's a democratic process that allows for everyones voices and opinions to be heard, and creates a safe space for open discussions. We've been testing the experiment process for the past year and a half with a ton of success, and it has been fun as well as a learning curve. Changes we've implemented are for instance team-based hiring, switching from Slack to Twist, doing Project Capsules and presenting project's profitability back to the studio, a system around salary improvements, the structure of our retros, and a Career Growth Buddy System.

So for big experiments or complex decisions, we make decisions with a process called Integrative Decision Making (or IDM for short). IDM is a democratic way of making complex decisions quickly and inclusively. IDM helps us make decisions that are safe to try, knowing we can always adjust them. It asks for consent, rather than consensus, which means we can take action and learn more quickly.

If you're curious to learn more about IDM, read Derrick Bradley's post on it.

Once an experiment has passed, we move it into our In Progress column in our Experiments Board, and review the experiment at a later specified date. Once we've properly tested the experiment, we will review it and either decide to keep or kill the experiment. The experiments we keep become integrated changes and policies in our process and culture. This way, everyone in the studio has a voice and an impact on how the company evolves!

This policy is our first step in offering a parental leave, and we plan on iterating and expanding on it as we have employees provide feedback after their own experiences. We are by no means experts. We’re doing the best we can, and we will continue to be curious and learn as much as we can. Please feel free to reach out if you've any comments to our policy, or suggestions on how to improve it at hello@sanctuary.computer! 👋