How the Virgin paternity leave compares to others

By Staff Writer
Richard Branson and Virgin made the news last week after it was announced that the company would be introducing 12 months full paid shared parental leave. Justmoney investigated how this policy compares with the maternity and paternity leave granted in South Africa.
The announcement by Virgin followed the introduction of the Shared Parental Leave legislation that was introduced in the United Kingdom earlier this year.
In a blog post, Branson explained: “We wanted to take it a step further by giving all employees at Virgin Management with four years or more service, enhanced shared parental leave pay up to 100% of salary for 52 weeks.”
However, this comes with certain conditions. It is only available to Virgin management the investment and brand licensing office at the heart of the Virgin Group  and to those with four years or more service to the company,” according to an article on the Virgin website.
From all the information and comment from Virgin, it appears that the new 12 month paid paternity leave is not available to management in South Africa. According to the Independent in the UK, this new policy affects only 140 employees based in the Geneva and London offices.
Department of Labour
When it comes to maternity leave and payment, South Africa has some way to go, particularly if you were to compare the benefits to those offered in Europe and the United Kingdom. A spokesperson for the Department of Labour in South Africa noted: “Some companies do not pay at all when a woman is on maternity leave, [while] some pay half the amount of salary.”
The spokesperson added that when on maternity leave a woman can claim maternity benefits from the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF), if the company she works for reduces her salary. “The UIF will then top up the payment made by the company to make it a full salary.”
“Maternity benefits are calculated separately subject to credit days accumulated, it is calculated at 121 credit days separate from other benefits claimed,” added the spokesperson.
According to the Department of Labour, “pregnant workers are entitled to at least four consecutive months of maternity leave.”
It adds: “Workers may take maternity leave one month before their due date, or earlier or later as agreed or required for health reasons.
“Workers may not go back to work within six weeks after the birth unless their doctor or midwife say it is safe.”
Chapter three of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act deals with issues around leave. Under this chapter, there is a section that explains the terms of maternity leave, however, there is no mention of paternity leave in the Act.
According to the Act, an employer must grant an employee three days of paid family responsibility leave in the event of the birth of their child. In other words, fathers are only entitled to three days of paid leave after the birth of their child. If they wish to take more leave it will be classified as annual leave. So, unfortunately, South African paternity laws don’t come close to the benefits offered to Virgin management.
Paternity and maternity leave in practice
Some companies do offer more family leave than others. But few have actual paternity leave. Sifison Mthembu, HR executive at First National Bank (FNB) explained: “An employee who has been in the employment of the Group for longer than four months and who works at least four days per week is entitled to a total of five days non-cumulative paid leave per annual leave cycle. This is called family responsibility leave and allows employees to take time off in the event of significant family incident. This includes childbirth, which means that a father can take family responsibility leave if they have a new born baby.”
According to Mthembu, a father, or mother, can take additional leave as either annual leave or unpaid leave if they wish to take more leave than is permitted by family responsibility leave. “Such leave may be used for any purpose as the employee may require.”
FNB offers women four months of full paid maternity leave, in addition to an extra two months unpaid leave should the mother wish to take it. “This will be granted to employees who cease work on account of pregnancy, as well as to female employees who adopt infant children (two years and younger),” explained Mthembu.
He added: “The Bank will pay 100% of the employees’ package for a period of four months provided the employee has a minimum of one years group services, as at date of confinement. Normal monthly deductions will continue to be affected. (Date of confinement refers to the expected date of delivery as advised by a doctor). Should an employee want to extend their maternity leave, they can then apply for unpaid leave.”
It looks like, for now, the announcement made by Virgin will have no impact on the benefits offered by companies here in South Africa. In light of the announcement by Branson and Virgin last week, Mthembu noted that no changes are currently being considered. He stated: “Leave benefits at FNB and other parts of the FirstRand group are a subject of negotiation between the bank and the recognised employee Union. The issue of extending paternity leave hasn't arisen yet. Should it be raised by either party, it would have to be tabled at the relevant forum for negotiation.”

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