IoD highlights perils of extending maternity rights

The
Government should take a ‘time-out’ before pushing ahead with any further
extension of maternity rights, according to the Institute of Directors (IoD).

Commenting
on the current debate over maternity rights, the IoD said that maternity leave
issues had featured heavily in its latest set of red tape case studies from IoD
members.

The
IoD dossier, In Their Own Words: Red Tape Case Studies from IoD Members, gives
first-hand accounts of a series of problems encountered by businesses as a
result of maternity leave situations. The issues are particularly acute for
small companies.

Typical
problems include:


Difficulty in finding adequate temporary cover for employees on maternity leave
– especially when the absent employee plays a specialised role in the business.
Potential employees with high skill levels may be reluctant to take a temporary
contract


Employees failing to give a clear indication of when they intend to return to
work


Business development stalled while research and development staff take maternity
leave


Employees requesting flexible working arrangements on return from maternity
leave, leaving the employer reluctant to put more staff on non-standard hours,
but wary of the consequences of refusing the request.

The
IoD’s head of regulatory affairs, James Walsh, said: "Responsible
employers recognise that maternity rights are an important part of a fair deal
for employees. The problem is that the balance has swung too far against the
employer.

"The
IoD does not support calls for abolition of maternity rights – far from it. But
we are concerned that the Government is thinking of extending these rights even
further after 2006. Business is still getting to grips with the last upheaval.

"We
want the Government to take a ‘time-out’ on the whole package of
family-friendly employment law until 2010 at least. Business needs a prolonged
period of no change so that it can get on with generating wealth and creating
jobs," said Walsh.

By Quentin Reade

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