Elon Musk plans to 'significantly' increase childcare benefits at his firms

Mr Elon Musk recently told employees of both Tesla and SpaceX to work in the office at least 40 hours a week, or leave. PHOTO: AFP

SAN FRANCISCO (REUTERS) - Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk said on Friday (July 8) he planned to "significantly" increase childcare benefits at his companies, including Tesla, and that the details likely would be announced next month.

His comments came a day after Mr Musk tweeted that he will do his best to help what he called "the underpopulation crisis", following a media report that said he had secret twins with a top executive at his brain-chip start-up Neuralink.

"Kids are worth it if at all possible. I am planning to increase childcare benefits at my companies significantly," Mr Musk said in a tweet.

Mr Musk, the father of nine children and whom Forbes ranks as the world's richest person with an estimated net worth of US$237.1 billion (S$331.4 billion), said his foundation, of which he is president, plans to donate directly to families, without providing additional details.

In addition to Tesla and Neuralink, Mr Musk is the founder and chief executive of private rocket company SpaceX.

Tesla's employee benefits include 16 weeks of paid family leave, according to its impact report. This compares with up to 24 weeks of paid parental leave at Alphabet's Google, which has long been known as a global trailblazer in workplace benefits.

Tesla lags behind other United States tech companies and US automakers in terms of the representation of women, according to the impact report.

Women held 17 per cent of Tesla's US leadership positions, defined as directors and vice-presidents, according to Tesla's 2020 diversity report. Women made up about 22 per cent of executives at other S&P 500 companies, according to a 2020 report published by researcher Equileap.

Some experts raised concern that Mr Musk's recent return-to-office order for employees could further undermine the representation of women, who are open to the flexibility in working from home.

"Even though the policy is neutral on its face, it could have a discriminatory impact on women and disabled people," Ms Melissa Atkins, a partner at law firm Obermayer who represents clients on a variety of labour and employment issues, said.

Mr Musk recently told employees of both Tesla and SpaceX to work in the office at least 40 hours a week, or leave. The policy is in contrast to those of many tech companies and automakers, which offer a mixture of in-office and remote work.

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