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Cath Everett

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Changes to paternity leave – will they work?


The new government will face significant challenges in implementing its flexible parental leave proposals given employers’ lukewarm response to existing paternity leave measures today, a leading HR body has warned.

The coalition government is keen for fathers to be able to take six months of paternity leave while their partners return to work. But the suggestion has caused concern among employers over the costs of administering the scheme, not least because of a requirement to monitor spousal entitlement and usage – whether they work for the business or not.
According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s (CIPD) quarterly ‘Employee Focus’ survey undertaken among 800 organisations, however, only two out of five businesses are currently offering working fathers two weeks’ pay at or near their full rate. Just under a quarter offer no leave beyond the statutory two week minimum.
Mike Emmott, the CIPD’s employee relations advisor, said: “If flexible parental leave is going to become a reality, we need a step-change in the reward policies of UK organisations that encourages more fathers to take their statutory rights. This is something that will only be achieved through cultural change – and legislation is emphatically not the answer.”
The new government would need to think imaginatively if it wanted to encourage such change, however, he added.
Sarah Bond, head of diversity and employee engagement at management consultancy KPMG, also pointed out that the increasing demands being made on carers were likely to alter both male and female working patterns over the next 10 years. This meant that organisations would need to examine their family support packages to ensure that they matched changing trends.
“There are real incentives for businesses here. More and more talented people with parenting and caring responsibilities – fathers as well as mothers – seek out best practice employers that enable people to balance their work and family lives,” Bond added.
But employers were also concerned about other incoming legislation, the survey showed. Almost three out of ten saw the future Working Time Regulations as the biggest hindrance to doing business effectively, while just over the same number considered the Agency Worker Regulations to be the largest burden. Both new laws are due to come into effect in October 2011. A mere 28% and 13% respectively believed that either would be helpful.
“The CIPD believes that the Working Time Regulations in particular have negligible value in limiting unhealthy workplace behaviour. We are, therefore, calling for its repeal in the context of the review currently being undertaken by the European Commission,” Emmott said.


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