HR must speak out on maternity plans

Family-friendly working is the most overused phrase of the year. At every HR event, speakers and delegates have been eager to drop words like flexible working into the conversation at every opportunity.

The media have been full of articles on the work-life balance; nor have politicians been slow to jump on the bandwagon of what looks like a votewinner.

The DTI has been busy canvassing views, and its review of the issues concerning parents at work, which was launched in June, closes next week. The next step will be a Government consultation paper, which is expected at the end of next month.

The idea of a “baby bonus” for employers is one of the better ones that have been floated. Companies would welcome a payment that funds training and updates the skills of women returners. In a buoyant recruitment market, where there are skills shortages and a fight to keep the best talent, any initiatives which encourage employers to make sure women return to work are essential.

What is important is that HR professionals have their say. Practitioners were surprisingly reluctant to comment on this issue when Personnel Today sought their views this week.

Proposals such as extending maternity leave from 40 weeks to a year have a direct effect on the business, and HR should ensure it makes its views known.

Been there, done that

The Hollywood comedy Groundhog Day is about a man permanently trapped in the same day. Every time the alarm rings in the morning he checks the date on the digital monitor, and discovers he is about to relive the previous day.

When veteran delegates to CIPD conferences wake up in their splendid Victorian hotel rooms next week they might well experience a similar sensation. This feeling will intensify if, over the full English breakfast, they happen to scan the conference programme.

Many of the names of keynote speakers will be familiar – and the themes will ring a bell, too. It can feel as if the organisers get the themes for this year’s conference by jumbling up the words for last year’s. Last year it might have been “Putting people into strategy”. This year, perhaps, “Putting strategy into people”.

The format of the CIPD’s conference has served it well. But might it be time to ring the changes?

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