James Campanini, managing director at Cisco WebEx, discusses paternity leave and what businesses and individuals can do to solve the problems associated with it.
Just over a year ago, new paternity leave rights came into effect meaning fathers were brought up to a more even par with the rights of mothers when it comes to taking time off to look after a new family addition.
The changes were greeted with a mixed response; The Federation of Small Businesses claiming that a ‘one-size-fits-all approach’ would be detrimental to small businesses, adding an ‘administrative burden’. Despite the reaction, Government pledged to have a fully flexible system of shared parental leave in place by 2015. However, Additional Paternity Leave (APL) was more recently reported to have received a lower uptake than initially expected.
The reason? New fathers are concerned about the negative effect taking the extra time off may have on their careers, the perceptions of them amongst co-workers and also, the financial implications. And, most recently, it’s not only the employees but also the small business owners raising concerns – worried about how they can manage this change without negatively impacting upon their business. Of course, governed by employment law, there is little that can be done to change the legislation and so it’s about finding ways of managing the situation, from both viewpoints.
In my mind, there must be a happy medium. Until society catches up with accepting the changes; businesses adapt and men become more used to the option of being able to take time off to help with a newborn child, without feeling judged or losing too much by way of monthly income, a middle-ground must be reached.
I’ve previously blogged about companies doing well with implementing new flexible working policies, enabling employees to perform their daily jobs without having to be physically present in the office. It works both ways; businesses and individuals can be benefit from utilising technologies to support these flexible working policies.
If fathers are concerned about taking their full entitlement, the option to negotiate their way through their paternity leave should be there. Allowing a new father, or mother for that matter, to work from home during the first few months of welcoming a new baby into their lives should absolutely be regarded as a viable option. Likewise, a small business concerned about the impact of losing a key member of staff for up to nine months, could offer greater flexibility meaning the individual can spend more time at home with the family whilst also fulfilling their role and continuing to work through the duration of their leave.
Of course there will always be concerns amongst some of the more sceptical business owners and employers who wouldn’t trust their employees to be able to juggle new family life with continuing their day job. And of course, there are roles out there to which flexible working is more easily integrated, but without even thinking about the alternatives, this all or nothing mentality won’t achieve anything – the realisation is, this is happening, and something needs to be done to ensure the transition is smooth and effective.