Voice your fears over new parents’ rights

The Green
Paper on work and parents might have been well trailed in the media in recent
months, but there are still some real shocks in the document published last
week.

Paid
paternity leave, extended maternity leave, increased maternity pay – none of
these was a surprise. What may stun employers are the proposals on working
part-time and the plan to allow mothers and fathers to share any increase in
existing unpaid maternity leave equally between them.

Major
employers have striven to be more family-friendly, especially in a tight labour
market. Men have always been the poorer relation in parenthood, so paid
paternity leave is welcomed by many big employers.

Even so,
businesses and HR professionals might not have been expecting the Green Paper
to go quite as far as it has. The Government has set out a populist,
family-friendly agenda in the run-up to the election, so there will be squeals
of panic from organisations representing employers like the CBI.

The end
result will be a watered down version – if it makes it on to the statute books
after the election – but don’t bank on it. The HR profession has until 7 March
to get its responses in to the DTI. So click on the DTI web site for a copy of
the Green Paper and fill in the response form (www.dti.gov.uk/er/review.htm).

What
happens when a new father wants to take some of his partner’s unused maternity
leave? Point out to the DTI the complicated logistics of checking with the
company of the employee’s partner to find out how much leave she has left – and
this before you start thinking about cover for the father’s absence.

It is the
sort of complicated case that might make the Government think twice before
trying to enshrine this aspect of family-friendly working in legislation.

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