Kids are all right at Softbank

February 3rd, 2010 by Philip Brasor & Masako Tsubuku

What? No iPhone for Taro Junior?

What? No iPhone for Taro Junior?

Softbank Corp. announced on Tuesday that its profits for the first three quarters of the current fiscal year rose 63 percent over the same period in fiscal 2008. Nice going in this particular environment; which automatically raises the question: What is the company going to do with all that money in terms of the people who work for them?

Actually, Softbank and its group companies — Softbank Mobile, Softbank BB and Softbank Telecom — have a corporate policy that stresses the importance of its employees’ lives while addressing social problems such as the declining birthrate. That’s why Softbank introduced the shussan iwai-kin (birth celebration money) system some years ago and even upgraded it in April 2007. With this system, full-time employees who have worked for the company at least one year are given a bonus of ¥50,000 when they have their first child, ¥100,000 when they have their second child, ¥1,000,000 for the third, ¥3,000,000 for the fourth, and ¥5,000,000 for the fifth.

So far there has only been one employee who has scored the jackpot with a fifth kid, but since 2007 there have been 12 who have claimed the ¥3,000,000 bonus with their respective fourth offsprings. There are other companies that also offer bonuses for babies, but I can’t find any that provide these big payouts for fourth and fifth births.

Pretty sweet, and certainly a good reason to stay with Softbank if you’re planning a big family. But how is Softbank in terms of maternity and paternity leaves, which is another gauge of corporate concern for employee welfare? A closer look at the company’s home page revealed this:

Female employees who are expecting a child can take time off from their jobs starting six weeks before their due date and ending eight weeks following the birth. This seems to be standard practice in both the private and the public sectors. It isn’t clear whether or not any of this is paid leave. (An interesting footnote: Women who occupy sales positions can leave as soon as they discover they are pregnant. Is that because sales work is more stressful or because the company thinks clients will be turned off by a woman with child?)

  • Male employees whose wives are giving birth can take five paid holidays off within a period starting one week before the wife’s due date and one month after she gives birth. (There is no law that says companies have to pay for this time off, but apparently public sector workers tend to get more paid paternity leave days.)
  • An employee can ask for continuous “child-raising” time off (ikkyu) until the newborn has turned one year of age. (Unemployment insurance pays full-time employees about 30 percent of their usual salary while they take time off in such situations.)
  • A parent can take up to 10 days a year to care for a sick child until that child enters elementary school. None of these days are paid, however the employee can also use his or her available paid holidays for the same purpose.
  • Employees receive a 20 percent subsidy for daycare services that have contracts with Softbank as long as they use the service five days a week.
  • Softbank contracts with companies that provide drop-off and pickup service for children at daycare centers or schools and with companies that do housework. These services are offered at a discount to Softbank employees whose spouses also work.
  • When a child of a Softbank employee enters elementary school, the child will receive a Softbank cell phone from the company free of charge. The basic monthly fee will be waived for as long as the employee works at Softbank.

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