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Annie Hayes

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Businesses fear parental rights boost

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Government plans to extend paid maternity leave from six to 12 months is alarming businesses who fear a productivity lag and a hit on profit levels.

Sixty-one per cent of businesses polled by Croner Consulting, said the proposals would impact on their bottom line. Nearly two thirds also reject recommendations to increase paid paternity leave. Plans to boost maternity leave from half a year to 12 months will see fathers gaining the right to take up to three months of the leave period allocated to each couple.

Richard Smith of Croner said: “Most employers try to accommodate working parents as best as they can, but the law should support the employer’s need for the work to be done. Employers’ rights need to be balanced with those of the employee and further provisions for parents and carers would leave many businesses struggling to cope.

“This is especially true for smaller firms who may find it difficult to bear the costs of recruiting and training replacement staff.”

The results coincide with today’s survey by the British Chambers of Commerce which shows that small firms are against any new rights for workers at all.

Smith highlights the issues for childless workers who he says are likely to become demotivated and disgruntled by further extensions to parental rights.

“They also face the strain of picking up additional work when parents are absent due to maternity or paternity leave, or to accommodate childcare responsibilities.”

Maternity groups and supporters of working parents welcomed the news.

Ros Hampson at the Maternity Alliance told HRZone: “We welcome the proposed changes. The extension of maternity leave and pay will offer parents more choices about how they look after their child during the crucial first year of life; the time widely recognised as the most important for a child’s development.

“Too many parents, particularly mothers, currently feel forced to return to work before they’re ready because they can’t afford to take unpaid leave. Allowing dads to share a portion of this leave, and increasing paternity pay, will also support fathers who want to play a bigger role in bringing up their children.”

The extensions are expected to be announced tomorrow by the Chancellor in the Pre-Budget Report.

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Annie Hayes

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