Childrearing

Virgin’s Cool New Parental Leave Policy Should Be An Inspiration To All Other Employers

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richard-bransonCool-guy billionaire and real-life Zaphod Beeblebrox Sir Richard Branson announced last week that Virgin Management would be rolling out a new parental leave policy that will make most parents say, “Damn, I wish I worked at Virgin!” It’s great news for a lot of people, especially if it manages to light a fire under some of Virgin’s competitors.

According to a blog post on Virgin.com, employees at Virgin Management–the investment and brand-licensing arm of Virgin Group–will be eligible for up to a year of shared, paid parental leave divided between both parents. The amount a person is paid will depend on how long they have been with the company, and the deal is available to male and female employees who are expecting to deliver or adopt children.

This is not perfect news for every Virgin employee, however. It only applies officially to Virgin Management employees in the U.K. and Geneva, so approximately 140 employees out of Virgin Group’s 50,000, according to Forbes. The pay rate depends on how long an employee has been with the company, too. An employee who has been with Virgin for four years will get 100-percent of his or her salary while on leave. An employee who has been with the company for two years would get just 25 percent. Also, the time requires leave to be split between two parents, so it’s not like an employee with a stay-at-home spouse could just take 52 weeks of paid maternity or paternity leave.

Virgin’s new policy announcement comes on the heels of the U.K.’s Shared Parental Leave act, which requires companies to allow 52 weeks of parental leave split between parents, though it does not require the amount of pay Virgin is offering. Branson said the new policy was inspired by that law but is designed to take it “a step further” and is part of strategic plan to attract and keep high-quality employees, which makes a lot of sense. I have personally seen two major corporations fight over a prospective employee, and for a person making that kind of career decision, the question of parental leave could be the issue that makes the decision. (One of the companies involved kept talking up a trolley that would bring free, warm cookies to her desk every day. Free cookies are great, but I would rather have paid maternity leave.)

“If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your business,” Branson said in a statement. The Virgin offer does beat parental leave policies at companies like Google, which reportedly offers 12 weeks paid paternity leave, or 18 if the father is the primary caregiver.

Parental leave is an important issue. Paternity leave encourages fathers to bond more with their children, and it helps encourage men to take an equal role in child rearing and also helps increase career and income equality for women. It’s so important that it is pretty ridiculous that the US only mandates 12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave for women with full-time jobs. Parental leave is important and should be for everybody, not just a cool perk for highly paid employees being headhunted by major corporations. It’s not the cookie trolley.

(Photo: Leon Halip/Getty Images)

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