Microsoft said Thursday it will begin requiring US suppliers to offer employees at least 12 weeks of paid parental leave when they have or adopt children.
The new policy applies to suppliers with 50 or more employees who do substantial work for the US technology giant, according to Microsoft general counsel Dev Stahlkopf.
"We recognise today's announcement comes during an ongoing national dialogue about the importance of paid parental leave," Stahlkopf said in an online post, while noting that only 13 percent of US workers in the private sector have access to paid parental leave.
"The case for paid parental leave is clear."
Three years ago, Microsoft began requiring major suppliers to provide paid time off for workers, and parental leave was described as a reasonable next step.
"Paid time off is good both for employers and employees," Stahlkopf said.
The technology giant planned to work with US suppliers during the coming year to implement the paid parental leave policy, which calls or workers to be paid as much as $1,000 for each of the 12 weeks they are given off.
Microsoft acknowledged that the benefit could result in ramping up its own costs, but promised a process for addressing that issue with suppliers.
"When parents can take time off work to care for their families, everyone - their kids, their companies, and their communities - benefits," Melinda Gates, the wife of Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, said in a tweet.
"Great to see."
Microsoft said the requirement was inspired by legislation in several US states including Washington, where the technology firm is based.
A law set to take effect in Washington State in 2020 will require that employees who qualify get 12 weeks paid parental leave.
Microsoft opted to move before the law took effect, and wanted to help extend the benefit to employees of suppliers located outside the state, according to Stahlkopf.
Family advocacy groups welcomed the news, and expressed hope that US legislators and other companies would champion the cause.
On Twitter, the Family Values @ Work coalition congratulated Microsoft.
"Offering paid leave isn't just the right thing to do, it's good for the bottom line, helps increase gender equity in the workforce - and worker prosperity," the organization said.
General Mills on Wednesday announced it is ramping up family leave benefits.
Beginning next year, the US food giant will begin providing 18 to 20 weeks paid leave to new mothers while giving 12 weeks paid time off to fathers, partners, and adoptive parents.
"General Mills has been making food people love for over 150 years and our employees have always been our secret ingredient," chief human resources officer Jacqueline Williams-Roll said in a release.
"We want to keep innovating in how we meet their evolving needs."
A 2016 Pew Research Center study based on data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found the United States was the only one of the 41 member countries without any mandated, paid parental leave.