CEO of Virgin Group and rebel billionaire Sir Richard Branson just announced an incredible new job perk for his company’s employees: New fathers can take a year off of work to go be dads while Virgin pays their salary in full. It’s the latest move by a major company to do something that almost seems unimaginable: Investing in the lives of the workers who make your business run. And don’t worry, mothers will get the same offer, too.
In today’s job market, even getting maternity leave is a challenge, and fathers are oftentimes out-of-luck completely. This means new parents are often forced to put their jobs ahead of spending time with their children in order to keep putting food on the table. The emotional and societal costs are difficult to put into numbers, but easy to recognize as a major problem.
To change that, Branson is going all-in on new parents. He announced the new policy by saying:
“If you take care of your employees they will take care of your business. As a father and now a granddad to three wonderful grandchildren, I know how magical the first year of a child’s life is but also how much hard work it takes.
I’m delighted that we can offer this support to our staff so that they can enjoy parental leave to the full as we continue to our work in changing business for good.”
Investing in loyal workers seems to be Virgin’s creed. The offer is extended to all employees, but those who have stuck with the company for four years or more get the full 100% pay compensation. Branson is betting that an employee who feels like his company is looking out for him is probably going to be more productive and less likely to jump ship. It’s not a bad wager to make.
It also allows woman – who typically get the brunt of the parental responsibilities – to make their own decisions about whether to continue working or not. Atlantic magazine made a convincing case for paternity leave back in 2014, noting that it wasn’t just men who benefit.
While paid paternity leave may feel like an unexpected gift, the biggest beneficiaries aren’t men, or even babies. In the long run, the true beneficiaries of paternity leave are women, and the companies and nations that benefit when women advance. In October, the World Economic Forum released its latest global gender-gap report, showing that countries with the strongest economies are those that have found ways to further women’s careers, close the gender pay gap, and keep women—who in most nations are now better educated than men—tethered to the workforce after they become mothers.
In the meantime, some politicians and corporations are working towards eroding even more job benefits to save money and keep the profits rolling – at least in the short-term. Those penny pinchers stand in stark contrast to Virgin’s employee-first management style and they reveal the kind of contempt that many “job creators” have for the people who work for them.
For many workers, just getting basic job benefits is a struggle. After President Obama announced his landmark healthcare overhaul, some businesses tried to slash their employees hours in order to avoid having to give them health insurance. Others have argued that America should do away with the minimum wage so that companies could be free to pay their employees even less than the dismal poverty wages they can now. Paternity leave has been greeted in some corners with derision.
These attacks on workers will surely help CEOs and stockholders squeeze a few more pennies out of their companies, but it seems very likely that it’s a model that is doomed to fail. With companies like Virgin, Chipotle, and Costco working hard to help out their employees, how much longer can other companies continue to abuse their own?
Feature image via Pixabay