British business mogul and Virgin CEO Richard Branson is in the news again for a new workplace policy granting a full year of paid parental leave to employees of Virgin, the investment arm of the Virgin Group.
Leave is available to both men and women who have worked for the company for four years. The policy isn’t quite as lavish as it sounds, since only 150 of Virgin’s approximately 50,000 employees work for Virgin Management.
The parental leave policy won’t send Sir Richard to the poorhouse—he’s worth an estimated $4.8 billion—since relatively few eligible employees are likely to have or adopt a child.
Plus, even in relatively family-friendly companies like Virgin, corporate culture often prevent use of parental leave, especially among men. In choosing his investment company to roll out the new policy, Branson ventures into an industry where working long hours is revered.
However, the move could make Virgin look like an attractive alternative to the usual finance industry model. Goldman Sachs recently crowed about increasing paid paternity leave—all the way to four weeks.
Tech companies, led by Facebook and Reddit, tend to offer the most liberal parental leave plans. Those companies need highly skilled workers who are expensive to replace. Set against high turnover costs, generous leave benefits can produce a positive return on investment.
Final note: Publicity stunt or not, the news has workers talking. That in itself may lead to a push for more generous parental leave benefits from other employers.