Welcome news, or added burden?

HR
professionals gave a mixed reaction to the family-friendly measures outlined in
the Budget.

John
Philpott, chief economist of the CIPD, welcomed the extension to maternity
leave to 26 weeks and the increase to maternity pay to £100 per week in 2003.

He
said, "These provisions are a welcome move in the light of consistent
evidence that family-friendly policies and flexible working practices benefit
both employers and employees."

Many
feel, however, that the Chancellor’s measures have increased the burden on
businesses.

Katya
Klasson, head of employee resourcing at the CBI, warned that the costs of
providing cover for extended maternity leave could be significant.

Mike
Taylor, group divisional HR director for engineering company Lorne Stewart,
agreed. "Just how much more cost will Gordon Brown put on industry?

"There
are such low margins and it is so competitive that this is just another turn of
the screw,"  he said.

Others
questioned the timing of the measures. David Yeandle, director of employment
policy for the EEF, said, "It’s disappointing that politicians made up
their minds about maternity and paternity pay before the end of the
consultation period for the Green Paper (7 March)."

Yeandle
is also concerned that mothers returning to work after 26 weeks would require
additional retraining.

The
Chancellor’s measures to allocate a £135m fund for the recruitment of
front-line staff in the NHS, including 10,000 nurses, were better
received. 

John
Adsett, secretary for the Association of Healthcare Human Resources Managers,
said, "This is good news for the NHS if the figures add up.

"My
only caveat would be whether the people are out there to recruit.

"It’s
always pleasing to get more money, but if you were cynical you could say this
is a short-term fix before the general election."

BUDGET
AT A GLANCE

Income
tax
£1bn income tax cut for 25 million workers by extending the 10p income
tax band to first £1,880 of taxable income

Education
Extra
£1bn over the next three years; £200m to help to recruit and retain
teachers

Business
Extension of tax breaks on share options; simplified VAT for small firms;
long-term capital gains tax rate cut to 10 per cent

Motoring
Freeze on all road fuel and other duties, with a 2p reduction in unleaded
petrol. Duty on road fuel gases will be frozen until 2004

By
Karen Higginbottom

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