Government must stop ‘tinkering’ with employment law to create jobs for parents

A business group has urged the government to stop tinkering with employment law if it wants to create more job opportunities for working parents.

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has said the “constant threat of tinkering” in employment law was hindering employers’ attempts to hire more mothers and fathers.

The call came after the Department for Children, Schools and Families published the Support for All – the Families and Relationships Green Paper which outlined plans for consultations later this year on extending eligibility for parental leave to those with children over five years old.

Adam Marshall, director of policy at the BCC, said: “In order for businesses to get on with creating jobs for mothers and fathers, the constant threat of tinkering to employment law – from both Parties – must stop.”

He added the vast majority of UK businesses already offered flexible working, on a formal and informal basis, to parents.

The Green Paper also announced a government consultation would be held on the notice period required when taking two weeks’ paternity leave, to help increase uptake. Fathers currently have to give at least 15 weeks’ notice to take up this entitlement.

Parental rights: Exceeding statutory requirements

John Wrighthouse, HR director at Nationwide, said: “Our paternity policy is enhanced above statute. For example, we don’t expect our employees to have served 26 weeks at Nationwide before being entitled to paternity pay, and we provide full pay during the two weeks of leave, as well as paid leave to support partners at antenatal appointments.

“By promoting working arrangements that fit in with family commitments, we can maintain staff and retain the skills and knowledge they possess. We have found that promoting Nationwide as a family-friendly employer is an advantageous recruitment and retention tool.”

But the campaign charity Working Families said to increase uptake of paternity leave provisions, employers must be encouraged to “top up” statutory pay to full pay for the two weeks of leave. Statutory paternity pay is currently £123.07 a week.

A survey by the charity revealed four in every 10 fathers do not take paternity leave, and 72% of those men said their decision not to take the leave was because they could not afford to.

Sarah Jackson, chief executive of Working Families, said: “We are glad to see a promise to consult on the eligibility for paternity leave in the Green Paper. But we also need adequate levels of pay if fathers are to be encouraged to take leave. That’s where employers can come in.

“Many good employers offer contractual pay on top of statutory maternity pay. We want many more employers to top up statutory paternity pay to full pay for the two weeks.”

The Green Paper also announced a Think Fathers business case would be published in Spring in partnership with BT, and made available through Business Link.


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