The Government's recent family-friendly proposals could spell problems for employers. In its response to the green paper on work and parents, the CBI says it would be impractical to give new parents the statutory right to work part-time as most firms wouldn't be able to guarantee reduced hours. And it says the proviso of a "harm test", allowing companies to refuse requests to work part-time could lead to "uncertainty and more employment tribunals". Comments John Cridland, deputy director-general of the CBI, "Ministers should help parents balance family and work responsibilities. But they need to do it by encouraging flexible employment practices, rather than by introducing unnecessary regulations such as the right to part-time work."
And employers are also concerned that the recent budget has increased the amount of red tape involved in employing people. According to a straw poll from the Institute of Directors, the main problems are associated with the new maternity and paternity entitlements and the difficulties of covering for absent staff during statutory leave periods. George Cox, director general of the IoD, said, "Insufficient has been done to lessen the burden of state interference and regulation in the business environment."
The Government has extended maternity leave from 18 weeks to 26, raising statutory maternity pay to £75 per week next year and then to £100 by 2003, when men will be entitled to two weeks paternity pay, set at the same level.
Employers will not be expected to swallow all of the increased costs as changes to the national insurance system means that 60 per cent of businesses can claim back the full cost of paying SMP. However, there are concerns among employers that the real cost will be in providing cover.