Challenge to accept family-friendly rights

 Employers are willing to accept proposals for greater flexible working and parental rights, but how they are implemented will provide the first major test of the government’s new commitment to light-touch regulation.

According to the CBI, firms are willing to agree to extended maternity leave, increased parental rights, and a expansion of the right to request flexible working, as long as there are no additional changes in the current parliamentary term and the rules are given time to settle in.

CBI deputy director-general John Cridland said the way the proposals are introduced will provide the first real litmus test of the government’s commitment to more consensual, business-friendly regulation.

Before the General Election, Tony Blair promised to listen harder to business’s voice on legislation and remove burdensome red tape for employers.

“Employers have been challenged to accept new family-friendly employment rights. In return, we have a challenge for the government: demonstrate your commitment to smarter regulation by reducing the burden on employers,” he said.

The government hopes to increase paid maternity leave to nine months by April 2007 and to 12 months by the end of Labour’s third term, while also allowing mothers to hand part of their leave and pay to fathers. An extension of flexible working has also been mooted, with carers and parents of the children under 16 set to benefit.

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