It won’t have any game-changing effects in the U.S.—yet.
One of Virgin’s company slogans is “breath of fresh airline.” Clearly the airlines’ news Wednesday that it was offering a year of paid maternal and paternal leave seems to be just that. Well, it probably won’t be a “breath of fresh airline” for most of the company’s employees, and it won’t do much to breathe fresh anything into the lack of substantial paid leave in the U.S.
The policy only applies to the about 140 employees who have worked for Virgin Management and are based in London and Geneva, and employees must have worked at least four years to receive their full salary during that time. In reality, it’s probably just an example of a company trying to keep some key employees from skydiving into the job market by making sure its benefits exceed the national standards. (The U.K. now mandates 52 weeks of partially paid leave that can be shared between spouses/partners.)
This isn’t the ground-breaking transformation of parental leave many want, especially not for the U.S., which has actually seen a decline in such leave. According to our research, only 58 % of employers in the U.S. provide any pay during maternity leave, while only 14% offer any pay during spouse/partner leaves (usually referred to as paternity leaves), and employers have become significantly less likely to provide full pay during leave for maternity-related disability between 2008 and 2014 (from 16% to 9%).
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