From 5th April 2015 parents can share the statutory maternity leave and pay only available to mothers, meaning that parents will be legally entitled to share the childcare during their baby’s first year and could take 6 months off work each.

How will this change impact small businesses? Larger companies can more readily absorb costs though smaller businesses may struggle. The impact on small businesses on staff going on maternity or paternity is high and in some circumstances could cause significant problems, especially when the employees going off are in positions of responsibility. It’s all well and good that the  government says that paternity leave can be paid back, but it doesn’t replace a missing employee!

Are we as society becoming softer with regards to employment? Yes people need to spend time with their family but why change something that everyone has always got on with?

A BBC news article on 17th January 2011 said that a survey of 1,300 firms by British Chambers of Commerce showed that over half believed giving extra paternity leave to fathers would be detrimental, while the Federation of Small Businesses said a one-size-fits-all approach did not work and added to the administrative burden on small firms.

If skilled workers go on paternity leave then this can create period of uncertainty  – for the business;  for the person on leave as they may not know how long they will be off for, and for the temp employed to cover their role. Everyone has a right to have children, though surely employers have a right to have stability and continuity in their business?

Whilst it may prove challenging for small businesses to overcome the loss of key employees to paternity leave there is the argument that in doing so and  offering enhanced shared parental pay could potentially end up with a more engaged, loyal and enthusiastic employee due to the support they have received in an exciting but challenging time!

On the other hand small businesses not offering enhanced parental pay may find that their employees are not in a position to be able afford to take the time off only being entitled to the statutory paternity pay of £128.73 per week resulting in no real change to the status quo. Sarah Jackson, chief executive of Working Families, said in an article by Rob Moss in Personnel Today 6th August 2014 “Shared parental leave will only be a success if fathers are not significantly financially worse off when taking it and when their employers are wholly supportive of them doing so.”

Ultimately for better or worse shared parental leave is happening and whilst small businesses may not like it, they need to plan for the future in order to maintain their success and keep their employees happy.  Sheila Attwood, XpertHR pay and benefits editor, said: “Enhanced shared parental pay could encourage more fathers to take time off. The key for employers – particularly those that don’t yet know what level of shared parental pay they will offer – is to have their policies in order soon, so that families can plan ahead.”

Ross Maxwell is a Consultant in Manchester and this article bears no relevance to him as his first baby is due before April 2015!