Why Richard Branson is giving his employees 12 months’ paid parental leave

Eloise Keating /

Image: Getty


Virgin founder Richard Branson is taking his commitment to the health and wellbeing of his employees to the next level by offering some staff in the London and Geneva offices of its Virgin Management division 12 months of paid parental leave.


Branson is well known for putting the wellbeing of his workers front and centre, letting his staff take as many holidays as they want and advocating for workplace policies that encourage employees to work from home.


Overnight, Virgin Management announced new mums and dads in its London and Geneva offices that have worked for the company for four years or more would be offered shared parental leave pay of up to 100% of their base salary for 52 weeks. New parents that have worked for the company for less than two years will receive around 25% of their base salary.


The policy, which is also available to adoptive parents, builds on shared parental leave legislation recently introduced by the UK government, which allows couples to share 50 weeks of parental leave between them.


In a blog post, Branson welcomed the government scheme but said Virgin wanted to “take it a step further”.


“If you take care of your employees they will take care of your business,” Branson said.


“That is a philosophy that has served us well for more than four decades and is the foundation of everything we do at Virgin.”


“As a father and now a grandfather 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. Being able to spend as much time as possible with your loved ones is absolutely vital, especially early on.”


Branson said the policy fits in with Virgin’s “work in changing business for good”.


“Health and wellbeing in the workplace should play a critical part in every company’s thinking,” he said.


“The more you support your staff, the happier and healthier your business with be.”


But not all businesses are in a position to offer such generous paid parental leave, with Ben Watts, director of wattsnext HR, telling SmartCompany this morning “affordability is the hardest thing” for SMEs when it comes to leave entitlements for staff.


However, Watts says the Virgin policy is a “fantastic concept” and one that small businesses can “absolutely” learn from.


“It’s taking a very long-term approach that if you look after your employees, they are more likely to be around longer and be loyal to the business,” Watts says.


Watts says the cost of offering employees parental leave should be compared to the cost of turning over staff, which he believes is often “underestimated” by SMEs.


He also says small businesses can learn from Branson’s approach to sharing leave between men and women, rather than only offering maternity leave to new mums.


“Under Australian laws the father can take leave too,” he says.


“It’s a fantastic concept. There is no reason why leave shouldn’t be available to women and men.”


This article originally appeared on SmartCompany.

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Eloise Keating

Eloise Keating is the editor of SmartCompany. Previously, Eloise was news editor at Books+Publishing, the trade press for the Australian book industry.

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