20th May 2011
Proposals allowing mothers and fathers to share parental leave as they see fit will be an administrative headache for small firms, business groups have warned.
Under the proposals in the Government’s Consultation on Modern Workplaces (PDF), from 2015 once statutory maternity leave and paternity leave have ended, parents will be able to share the remaining allowance between them. They could take this leave in blocks or even at the same time.
“For a small firm, organising cover and workloads for a member of staff that has decided to take chunks of parental leave from work — not a continuous period of time — will be extremely burdensome and difficult to administer.”
said John Walker, national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses.
However, the proposed reforms would allow employers to insist the leave is taken in one continuous period if agreement with staff cannot be reached. They would also be able to ask staff to return for short periods to meet peaks in demand.
David Frost, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said the proposals would expose employers to
endless appeals, legal challenges and grievances.
“These kinds of laws create huge uncertainty for employers, and prevent them from taking on more staff. We have to ask the Government what level of growth they expect to see from businesses dealing with yet more regulation.”
Gloucester-based small-business marketer, Nikki Owen, said:
“These reforms are long overdue. If anything, these proposals make things clearer for businesses as they create a level playing field. When you recruit people you will know that whether they’re male or female, they potentially have the same requirements when it comes maternity and paternity leave.”
The consultation, which also proposes extending employees’ right to request flexible working, ends on 8 August 2011.
Small businesses can comment at the Depart of Business, Innovation and Skills website on the Modern Workplaces Consultation: Flexible Parental Leave page.