Employers body, the CBI, has praised Chancellor Gordon Brown’s pre-budget report, which centres on measures to boost competitiveness, improve skills and get more people into the labour market.
However, the body said there will be worries about the plans for family-friendly working.
Digby Jones, CBI director-general, said Brown was right to equip the UK for the serious competitive threats this country now faces.
But he expressed concerns about proposed increases in statutory maternity pay (currently £102.80 per week) from six to nine months, with a long-term aim of increasing paid maternity leave to a year, and making it transferable from mothers to fathers.
There will also be £50 per week tax-free childcare allowance for parents as part of their salary.
“If we don’t invest more in innovation and skills, as well as stimulate the success of small businesses, frankly, we will get left behind by economies that have much lower costs,” said Jones. “The threat of China and India to our low-skilled jobs is only going to increase.
“Having both parents share parental leave sounds fine in principle, but who is going to police the system? Employers should not be responsible for finding out how much time each parent is entitled to. It is not fair for business to be blamed for intruding into people’s private lives.
“We will also press for more help with costs, which currently cover most of the pay but do not cover administration, training or replacement,” he added. “It is wrong for business to bear this burden.”