This thread contains comments to article "Extended family rights are wrong for the present": http://www.personneltoday.com/articles/2009/03/04/49681/extended-family-rights-are-wrong-for-the-present.html.
I wonder whether opinions about this differ between the private sector and the public sector?
Possibly. It would be interesting to find out. I assume most people would think that such rights will be more widely exercised in the public sector. It is something I feel quite strongly about (could you tell?!), and I work in private sector HR.
The "rights" are dreamed up by Civil Servants, some in Brussels, some in London, (Public Sector). (NB - UK law is now mainly driven by Bru. There is not even a legal requirement for a debate in Parliament, much less a debate in any public forum - there is enabling legislation to ensure that UK just does what Bru says, with a bit of gold plating.). They then consult with their mates in other parts of the public sector. They all think the "rights" are a great idea. They invent the spin for Ministers (vested interest??). They brief the Press - one of the last bastions of Spanish practices - who all live in posh places like Islington and Holland Park and who also think it's a great idea. The new right is "announced" by leak. By the time that anyone in the real private sector hear of it, it is a done deal.
and, of course, whatever the right is, the public sector implement it with gold plated add-ons.
I have to agree that I think the timing for such changes is not quite right. I also think that there will be much more work needed with employers than simply changing the legislation to encourgate more gender equality. As said above, the gender pay gap is still very apparent, which needs to be addressed first. The main issue here is the burden of additional cost, which always impacts smaller businesses more than larger entities. The impact of a father taking, say, 13 weeks paternity leave in an organisation of less than 20 people is very significant - the impact of the same in a much larger organsation with more developed systems and structures will always be less damaging.
The entire process of maternity/paternity/adoption leave and pay is a tricky one, as I believe it is a social responsibility to encourage the family unit (however that may be comprised) to bond and develop when a baby is born, but also to ensure that the country is able to push forward in its competitiveness and develop its skillbase in a challenging international environment, the balance between encouraging and supporting time out from the workplace has to be finely set.
I agree that a father taking 13 weeks off work would be difficult for an organisation of say, 20 people. However, something needs to change becasue at the moment, it is only women who have the entitlement to take this time out and hence 'make things difficult' for their employer. I think continuing to make this distinction between the roles of men and women (at work and at home) will hamper any progression of equality. Overall, the government is not proposing to offer any further time off per child - just giving the option for the time to be split. This may lead to each employee taking less time off per child on average as some will share the leave entitlement with their partner. Incidently, I do agree that it is not the right time to increase the amount of paid maternity leave, as I think this would put additional pressure on employers during a difficult time. I appreciate that giving couples the option to split the leave would also put additional pressure on employers, but I think addressing this inequality is LONG overdue and therefore should not be pushed back because of the recession. It is simply too crucial to addressing inequality.
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