When you're expecting a child, your private employer can actually be as generous as they'd like with the parental leave they offer, paid or unpaid. In most cases, though, they stick to the book, but there may be more pressure on these private employers following some recent significant policy changes from major companies like Netflix and Microsoft.

new mom
m-imagephotography, ThinkStock

In the same week, the two corporate giants shared new maternity and paternity guidelines that leave most other companies in the dust. For the first year after a birth or adoption, Netflix employees will be able to take as much paid time off as they want. Microsoft said all mothers and fathers of new children are eligible for 12 weeks "paid at 100 percent," adding to its already-allotted leave.

Gregg Salka, an associate with labor law firm Fisher & Phillips in Murray Hill, said employee-friendly policies like these are a way to keep the workforce happy, as well as attain and retain workers.

"The federal law…and the New Jersey law…are floors, not ceilings," Salka said. "So as long as an employer meets the minimum requirements provided by each of these rules…they can offer and be as generous as much as they want."

According to Dana Britton, director of the Center for Women and Work at Rutgers University, these free-for-all leave policies aren't as great as they seem, however. Britton suggested they breed a "race to the bottom" atmosphere.

"What is it going to look like if I take 12 weeks off to stay with my child, and my co-worker right next door, who's competing with me, takes off 20 minutes?" Britton asked.

Britton said policies with "leave minimums" work better, so each new parent must be absent from the workplace for a certain length of time.

The federal and state laws each provide 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave, given the employer and employee meet the general requirements. If not, Salka said, an employee may still be protected under another state or federal statute.

"And these laws protect both mothers and fathers alike," he said.

More From New Jersey 101.5 FM