Paternity Leave Reforms “ignore business needs”
Government plans to make shared parental leave more flexible do not take into consideration the difficulties small businesses would face under the new system, business groups have warned.
Deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, has announced that under a new “properly flexible” parental leave system, fathers and mothers will be able to split maternity and paternity leave “in whatever way suits them best” from 2015. The Government plans to launch a consultation on how this system will operate.
Additional Paternity Leave and Pay regulations were initially agreed by the previous Government, giving fathers of children due on or after 3 April 2011 the right of up to six months’ extra leave if the mother returns to work early, some of which may be paid if it falls under the mother’s maternity pay period. Clegg said these regulations will be implemented as planned, but are likely to be reformed from 2015.
British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) director general, David Frost, said that employers, particularly small firms, would struggle to implement the plan.
“While Nick Clegg’s announcement may prove politically popular, it fundamentally ignores business needs,” he said. “Business is not against the principal of shared parental leave, but how is an employer expected to cope with this fully flexible system?”
Institute of Directors (IoD) spokesman, Alistair Tebbit, agreed that the system would “encumber” small firms.
“If employees were given the opportunity to take leave in short blocks, the system would become virtually unmanageable.”
However, business secretary, Vince Cable, said that the new system would take employers’ needs into account and be simple to administer.
“We will consult fully with businesses and we are conscious of the concerns of some companies, particularly small firms – but I hope they will embrace our plans,” he said. “More businesses are appreciating that family-friendly workplaces are motivated and productive.”
Small-business owner, Ceri-Jane Hacking, founder of PR firm Cerub, said that the extension to paternity leave will create additional costs and work for small firms.
“Things are tough enough for small businesses without introducing complications that will cost them more money and make them reluctant to hire anybody.”