Family-friendly policies come first with Labour

Employers are bracing themselves for a new wave of legislation from the new
Labour Government, much of which reflects the administration’s emphasis on
"family-friendly" workplace policies.

Maternity, paternity and adoption leave have all been enhanced to include;
six months’ paid leave for adoptive parents, statutory paternity leave of two
weeks, and extended paid and unpaid leave for new mothers. Plans also include
the simplification of the administration of maternity pay and a requirement for
new parents to give employers greater notice to make it easier for employers to
plan and manage absences.

The Government has also toned down the proposals made during the last
administration, which would allow new parents to return to work part-time.
Instead, from April next year, parents with children will have the right to ask
to work part-time and have their request "taken seriously".

A new family-friendly task force has also been set up by new Trade and
Industry Secretary Patrica Hewitt to examine the practicalities of
"business-friendly" flexible working practices. The work and parent
taskforce includes representatives of pressure groups, unions and employers’
organisations. Announcing the taskforce, Patrica Hewitt said: "This
government is doing all it can to try to make everyday life easier for millions
of working mums and dads by bridging the gap between workplace and home through
commonsense policies."

Unions are critical of the fact that the new proposals simply allow staff to
request to work part-time and have queried how employers will react to the
proposals when they are put into practice.

Employers have been more positive to the change but are concerned about the
practicalities of the proposals. Susan Anderson, CBI director of HR policy,
said: "We are happy that employees should have a right to ask to work
part-time. But the taskforce will need to clarify how the process will operate.

"Whatever it recommends, employers must be left with the freedom to
organise working time in a way that meets the needs of their businesses."

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