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

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By Hyunjoo Jin and Akash Sriram

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

His comments came a day after 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'm planning to increase childcare benefits at my companies significantly," Musk said in a tweet https://bit.ly/3AFavSj.

Musk, the father of nine children and whom Forbes ranks as the world's richest person with an estimated net worth of $237.1 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, Musk is the founder and CEO of private rocket company SpaceX.

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

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

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

Some experts raised concern that 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's neutral on its face, it could have a discriminatory impact on women and disabled people," Melissa Atkins, a partner at Obermayer who represents clients on a variety of labor and employment issues, said.

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.

(Reporting by Hyunjoo Jin in San Francisco and Akash Sriram in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D'Silva, Jonathan Oatis and Leslie Adler)

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