Virgin Group founder, Richard Branson announces new policy to grant male employees up to a year’s paternity leave.

Sonke and our MenCare Campaign have been advocating for parental leave for fathers – it’s all part of promoting healthier and happier families and children, and promoting parenting as something that both male and female parents do, with the goal that men should share an equitable part of the unpaid home and child care work, and should develop strong and supportive bonds with their children and families.

In South Africa, the law gives men no paternity leave at all. As a starting point, Sonke Gender Justice is giving our male employees one month paternity leave and has been looking at a model of 10-100-1000 for South Africa to consider as a step towards greater paternity and parental leave nationwide which would create a better foundational support for children: 10 days of paternity leave for new fathers and then 100 days of additional leave for parents (in addition to the four months maternity leave that mothers already get) to take in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life.

More paternity leave will create more opportunities for women in the workplace, and more opportunities for men in the home and care space.

Richard Branson has just announced that Virgin Management employees will get up to 12 months paternity leave on full pay.

Ok, it’s not exactly as great as it sounds: According to The Independent: “only those who have been with Virgin for at least four years will receive the paternity or maternity pay of 100 per cent of their salaries. Newer recruits get remunerated proportionately, from 25 per cent for less than two years’ service – though that’s likely to still be higher than the statutory deal. Secondly, the offer only applies to employees of Virgin Management, the overarching investment and brand licensing arm of the global Virgin Group. That means it only actually affects around 140 people employed at offices in London and Geneva.”

It would be better if Virgin gave more paternity leave to all its employees, rather than to a select few (even if the overall additions to paternity leave were less generous, but rather universal), but it is at least a step in the right direction that companies and governments are starting to recognise the importance of giving men the time that they, their partners, and their children need for them to be involved and engaged parents.

We need governments around the world to lead on this. It cannot be just about those companies that choose to give paternity leave to fathers. Governments should strengthen parenting leave policies for both men and women in the interest of men, women and children.

— By Czerina Patel (Sonke Gender Justice)

Virgin’s Branson announces 12 months paternity leave, full pay