Large firms have had only a handful of requests from staff to take parental
leave, says Helen Froud, director of Worcestershire County Council’s corporate
Anecdotal evidence suggested that because the leave was unpaid, uptake had
been low since the regulations came into force last December.
"Parental leave is still not a mainstream issue for fathers or for
low-paid workers and will not be until, as the Industrial Society has said, the
term ‘working fathers’ comes into common parlance," she said.
But Froud warned employers to plan ahead because if a TUC challenge to the
implementation date of December 1999 succeeds in the European courts, the
regulations will allow an extra seven million employees to take parental leave
in two years’ time.
Cherie Booth QC, who chaired last year’s employers’ Law briefing, is acting
on behalf of the TUC and helped Froud to prepare her speech. Froud said
Worcestershire had exceeded the minimum standards and offered parental leave to
all staff who had children aged under five, not just to those who had a baby
after December 1999. The regulations allow both parents to take up to 13 weeks’
unpaid leave up to their child’s fifth birthday.
Froud urged HR managers to rehearse tricky questions within their team
first. She said the regulations would lead employers to ask questions they
would not want to ask, such as: "How many children have you