Firms still not ready for parental leave rights

Nearly two thirds of employers have failed to implement the new parental
leave regulations, according to independent research.

It found that employers were not in a position to honour the rights to 13
weeks’ unpaid leave should an employee request it.

Government delays in publishing the regulations were blamed by the
Employers’ Forum on EU Social Policy, which carried out the study. More than
four out of five firms cited inadequate consultation as the problem.

Robbie Gilbert, chief executive of the EFSP, denied that there is a lack of
will from companies to comply with the regulations.

"It is not that there is resistance to family-friendly policies,"
he said. "But employers need to see the details before they can finalise
their policy. They simply have not had that chance."

The Parental Leave regulations were published in mid-November. UK employers
needed to comply by 15 December.

A model scheme set out by the Government, gives up to four weeks’ of the
leave a year. The notice period required for an employee is only 21 days. The
model scheme automatically comes into play in the absence of a voluntary
arrangement between employers and staff – and a voluntary scheme must not be
less generous than the basic rights.

Elaine Aarons, head of employment at law firm Eversheds, said lack of
flexibility in the regulations is the major problem.

She said the model scheme is inadequate for many companies, but they have
not been given the chance to strike separate agreements with staff. "It
was acknow-ledged [by the Government] that most employers will negotiate their
own agreements, but they have not been given time to find the solution which
best suits their business," said Aarons.

She added that IT staff at many firms had not had time to update systems to
administer the new regulations because of Y2K.

By John Robinson

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