NEW YORK — Last week, the online streaming service Netflix announced it would offer (most) employees unlimited paid parental leave of up to one year.

The news was met with resounding approval, and indeed, it is a laudable step in the right direction: It fosters gender parity by bringing paternity leave into the mainstream, and it will certainly make life a bit easier for Netflix employees juggling the demands of work and parenthood.

And it’s a commercially savvy move for Netflix, which joins the ranks of companies like Virgin Airlines and Facebook that offer paid parental leave. (Netflix also hopes the move will help retain the most talented employees and boost work performance, as it stated explicitly on its blog.)

But it’s also a sharp reminder that the U.S. is the only developed nation that does not guarantee its citizens paid maternity or paternity leave. The closest our country comes to a comprehensive policy is the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, which gives about half of all workers 12 weeks of unpaid leave.

While new paid-leave policies are a boon for top-tier companies and their employees, framing extended parental leave as a perk to attract and retain top talent has troubling implications for the average American worker. Most employees are not hired for their advanced skills, intelligence or innovation, as they are at Facebook or Netflix. Rather, the average American worker is, well, average.

They’re hired because they can do a job – often at a relatively low wage – and working for one of the country’s most glamorous employers is not in their future. That’s why making elite professional achievement a prerequisite for what’s considered a basic right in most developed nations is highly troubling: It’s a form of the meritocracy myth that affects the next generation – and perpetuates the idea that a person’s economic potential determines whether or not he or she is deserving of family leave.

It’s not completely fair to blame corporations for sounding corporate. If prosperous tech and financial companies can offer benefits to boost their bottom line, why wouldn’t they? What’s troubling is not that these companies offer parental leave beyond what’s required by law, but how it’s aligned with hip job perks and exclusive incentives.

Consider listicles like “Unique Job Benefits that Keep Employees Happy” and “40 Coolest Tech Company Benefits,” which both include extended paid parental leave. On the “21 Employee Perks that Attract the Best Talent” list, it’s even listed between “free on-site spa service” and “drink fridge.”

Even within Netflix, talent and economic potential are factors in determining which employees receive unlimited leave and which do not.

The Huffington Post reports that employees in Netflix’s DVD division aren’t covered by the new policy – they’re not highly skilled, in-demand tech workers. This divide highlights how the new policy widens the gap between hotshot tech gurus and average workers.

Clustering luxurious job perks with extended parental leave takes the onus off a democracy to create infrastructure that supports all families and turns what should be a social responsibility into a private choice. The resulting message is clear, and pretty harsh: If you were ambitious, brainy and hardworking enough to gain entry into a company that gives its employees “special perks,” you’re entitled to greater job stability and family security. If not, you get what you deserve.

The benefits of paid leave for both new parents and the businesses that employ them are well-documented.

First-time mothers who take paid leave are more likely than those who take unpaid leave or no leave to return to the same employer, according to a 2015 report from the National Partnership for Women and Families. The report also found that paid leave increases employee productivity, loyalty and morale.

It follows that in California, one of three states with a statewide paid-leave program, 83 percent of workers in “lower quality” jobs who took advantage of the program returned to their previous employer, a 10-point improvement over those who did not.

What’s more, a big majority of businesses in California (87 percent) had no increased costs as a result of the program, and 9 percent indicated that the program had generated cost savings by reducing employee turnover and/or their own benefit costs.

Despite the evidence that paid leave has benefits at all economic levels, it continues to be imbued with value by its ability to retain the best workers.

When former Hewlett-Packard executive and Republican presidential hopeful Carly Fiorina spoke out in opposition to a government-mandated paid leave policy, she noted that the private sector in general and Netflix specifically knew what it needed to do to “attract the right talent” – again, making talent a critical part of the equation and of the cultural conversation.

If Netflix’s policy is to be truly revolutionary, it won’t be because it bestows a premium perk upon a select few, but rather because it illuminates why a nationwide parental leave policy is needed – and deserved – by so many more.