The New York Times presents the stories of employees who were part of large tech companies and who were affected by the unpleasant layoffs due to the economic crisis.

Being out of work
Last November, Alex Gable received the happiest news of all, namely that he had become a parent. However, just a few months later, his happiness is marred with a notice of an all-employee meeting at the software company where he works.

Four hours later, Mr. Gable, 30, found himself forced to break the news to his wife. Months after choosing the company for its generous paternity leave policy and openness to work-life balance, he was fired, ironically while on paternity leave.

Worried by the unpleasant news, the now unemployed father is filled with anxiety about how he will raise his child.

Economic disruption
Workers in the technology and media industries are experiencing a period of huge economic disruption. After showering their employees with perks, in a tight labour market and a war for talent, companies have turned to mass layoffs, including Alphabet, which laid off 6% of its workers last month, and Microsoft, which cut nearly 5%.

These are the same companies that have expanded benefits in one particular area in recent years: paid parental leave and child care benefits.

Today, however, some of their employees are spending the first weeks of parenthood adjusting to life without work. LinkedIn and Twitter are evidence of this, with their accounts of workers who have been fired while on parental leave. This affects mental health, as has happened to many laid-off workers in a variety of fields, including immigrants whose visas are employment-related.

Technology workers believe their companies tricked them after offering them not only a job, but a lifestyle with childcare, mental health support and paid time off.

For new parents, the generous leaves are part of the lure. Many of them had assumed that their parental leave came with some legal protection, and were upset when they learned that they were caught up in the mass redundancies. Taking parental leave does not protect against mass layoffs unrelated to the leave, the New York Times reports on the subject.

There is no federal paid family leave policy in America. About 23% of private-sector employees have paid maternity leave, according to September 2022 data from career site Zippia. More than 90% of women take the full amount of leave offered, compared with about two-thirds of men, according to a study by Boston College’s Center on Work and Family.

But over the past five years, companies have increased family benefits for some workers in what human resources experts have called a “golden age” of corporate benefits.

The companies don’t keep their promises?

Tech companies have been particularly generous with parental leave compared with other industries. Google has increased its parental leave to 24 weeks from 18 in 2021, Meta offers parents 20 weeks, and Microsoft gives 20 weeks to birth mothers and 12 weeks to non-parents.

“It’s jarring because people do view it as job-protected leave without understanding that there are limits on the protection. Many people view it as a time when they’re not in a position to be job searching.”

said Megan Bisk, head of the employment law practice at Ropes & Gray.

The New York Times also shares the story of Nikki Woodall, who was an engineering recruiter at one of the largest tech companies in the world, agreed to share her experience without naming her employer. She had worked at the company for five years when she told her bosses she planned to go on six months’ maternity leave from last summer. Their family-friendly attitude gave her the confidence to break away from work completely. She says she quit without a second thought, “My job is in jeopardy.”

A month before she was due to return, she received a private email informing her that her job was closing.

The economic crisis has its consequences, and no matter how big a company you work for, or what position you hold – you can never be sure of keeping your job.

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