Four months after being promoted to general counsel last year, Dev Stahlkopf announced that Microsoft would require all its vendors to provide contract employees who do “substantial work”—from shuttle drivers to food-service workers to receptionists—with 12 weeks of parental leave at two-thirds of their wages, up to $1,000 per week. Stahlkopf spearheaded and designed the change, which aligns with the terms of Washington State’s Paid Family and Medical Leave program. It’s an unusual arrangement in the tech industry, where contract workers often work side by side with full-time employees, but without benefits or other protections. (Microsoft paid a $97 million settlement in 2000, after thousands of temporary employees claimed they were improperly denied benefits.)
Fast Company: Why did you introduce this policy?
Dev Stahlkopf: We wanted to use our purchasing power to amplify our values. In 2015, we began requiring contractors to provide 15 days of paid time off for their employees. This was a follow-up from that, especially given the dialogue around paid parental leave and, frankly, the lack of it in the U.S. in the private sector.
FC: What surprised you about the rollout of this initiative?
DS: We expected suppliers to push back and say, “Gosh, this is imposing a tax on us—it’s going to be more expensive,” but we heard the opposite. They were relieved that they could provide enhanced benefits without worrying about being undercut by a different supplier. We were clear in telling them that we were willing to absorb the cost of this policy. It’s worth the price.
FC: What does it mean to you to have this be your first major project in your new role?
DS: I’m a working mom with two boys, so this was personal. Having access to paid parental leave allowed me to progress in my career, and I’m proud to work for a company that not only provides world-class benefits to its employees, but uses its power to create a positive impact outside of its walls.