Reduced hours: the right of both parents?

both sexes have the legal right to work part-time after the birth of a child?
Is it necessary to legislate on something which is already occurring
voluntarily? Or would education be the better option? Compiled by Sarah-Jane

Liam Donnelly
HR director, HMV Europe

Many of the new proposals de-tailed in the Government’s green paper are
sensible and reasonable. Two weeks’ paid paternity leave at approximately £100
is not a huge cost to bear and goes some way to providing a better balance
between work- and home life during a period in people’s lives that can be very

I am also in favour of extending the maternity leave entitlement to give
mothers longer in deciding whether to return to work or not. The current limits
are, in reality, short and do not give sufficient time for many parents to
fully adjust to their new way of life. In practical terms, organisations need
to cover for maternity leave periods regardless, so extending them further
would have a limited downside to organisations.

The real area of concern seems to be the right for fathers to work reduced
hours until the end of the maternity leave period and the option for both
parents to work reduced hours for as long as they wish after the maternity
period ends. This could result in a huge administrative burden for employers
and raises a host of issues and problems for small specialist departments,
areas where there are severe skill shortages in the market. The question as to
whether legislation is the right way forward on these matters needs to be
considered in more depth as does the motivation to introduce such radical

Continuing to encourage best practice and a reasonable, balanced approach
seems more sensible. With all of these issues however, I believe we need to remain
open-minded and practical.

In reality, how many problems is this likely to raise? It will vary I’m
sure, but very often the problems are not nearly as severe as we imagine.

Marie Gill
Head of colleague relations, ASDA

We already offer colleagues the opportunity of working fewer hours when they
return to work from maternity leave. Some choose to work part-time for a short
time until childcare is established, while some choose it permanently. Indeed,
most of our colleagues work part-time anyway – but they still have the
opportunity of adjusting their shifts to better suit baby-needs. Employees are
able to deliver more if they are able to find an appropriate balance between
work and the rest of their lives. Issues we see for HR managers are about
raising awareness of the entitlement and educating line managers to be creative
in developing good solutions.

Gary Bothe
HR business partner, Bayer

For women, the option to work part-time has largely been available for some
time. A law would just formalise something that is already happening. As for
extending the right to fathers, I can’t see many being in a position to go
part-time. I have just become a father and quite frankly I need the money and
so I am sure do many others. So, I think there is a bit of hysteria about this
proposal, much as there was to giving fathers the right to unpaid parental
leave. Unless it’s paid it doesn’t mean very much as few could afford it. Small
employers may think the proposals will have a huge impact.

Dianah Worman
Adviser on diversity and equality, CIPD

The way the Government is thinking on these issues is very encouraging but
employers are lagging behind. They look at such proposals in terms of hassle
and cost, but recent CIPD research found once they get through that perception
barrier they generally discover benefits. Part-time working is a particularly
popular option and in a grown-up world employers need to overcome their
automatic resistance and give it a try. People make choices that suit them and
many employees will question whether they can afford to go part-time. Moreover
the birth rate is going down, with few people now having more than two

Michael Stanley
Senior partner, human capital UK and Europe, Arthur Andersen

I can see how for smaller employers this could be problematic and costly but
for larger organisations they have to get their act straight on retaining
staff. By providing flexible working with parental leave you say to your
employees that you are a caring employer and you value them to keep their jobs
available to them. My organisation already provides part-time working to
parents. My disappointment lies with the fact that the Government feels it must
legislate on this. Someone always gets hurt and in this case it will be the
smaller employers who cannot afford to implement it. The larger ones can’t
afford not to.

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