Virgin among first companies providing paid carer and neonatal leave

Virgin Media O2 has rolled out enhanced employee wellbeing initiatives, becoming one of the first UK companies to offer both paid neonatal and paid carer's leave to workers.

Employees are entitled to up to 12 weeks neonatal leave, in addition to five days of paid carer's leave which can be taken as 10 half days.

The new parental leave policies include 14 weeks paid paternity leave, rather than the two week statutory paternity leave offered by the government.

The company is also offering 26 weeks paid maternity or adoption leave, as well as up to 10 days paid leave for pregnancy loss.

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Helen Walker, chief executive of Carers UK said: “We estimate as many as one in seven of the UK workforce has an unpaid caring responsibility for a relative or friend who is older, disabled or seriously ill. Juggling the two can be a challenging balancing act. Carer’s leave gives working carers the flexibility they need to support their loved one – at routine hospital appointments, for example, or to recover from a planned operation.

“Virgin Media O2 is taking one step further by ensuring that the leave is paid, showing that they really value the work of carers in their organisation. We hope other employers will recognise the benefits of carer’s leave and follow suit.”

The new policies had major input from Virgin Media O2 employees thanks to its employee resource groups (ERGs) for underrepresented parts of the workforce, including LGBT+ employees, disabled, neurodiverse and ethnic minority workers.

Nisha Marwaha, Virgin Media O2's director of people relations and DEI, highlighted the influence of the company's employee resource groups in making these decisions.

Speaking to HR magazine, she said: "The policies that we've just launched have come out of consultation with employee resource groups to understand what's important to our people, and what's going to make a difference. We started on the basis of trying to break barriers in order to create an inclusive culture.

"We've listened to our employees who've said it would make a huge difference for both parents to be present at the time when you can bond with your child, at a time when it's life changing and you're learning how to balance your new responsibilities."

The company has also offered employees cost of living support which will continue into 2023.

Workers earning under £35,000 will be given £1,400 support allowance, with £400 to be paid next month and in January 2023, followed by six monthly payments of £100 until July 2023.