February 6, 2013
Employment experts have raised concerns on the impact on employers of the Children and Families Bill, announced by the government this week, which introduces shared parental leave and extends the right to request flexible working to all employees. The idea behind the reforms is to give parents greater flexibility about how they ‘mix and match’ care of their child but Jonathan Exten-Wright, Partner from DLA Piper said: “Employers would no doubt welcome further guidance on how the new shared leave should operate in practice.”
Introducing the Bill to Parliament, Business Minister Jo Swinson said: “Current workplace arrangements are old-fashioned and rigid. The Children and Families Bill will bring the way mums and dads balance their lives at work and at home into the 21st century.
“Employers will soon get used to more men taking time off after their child is born and more mothers returning to work earlier, shattering the perception that it is mainly a woman’s role to stay at home and look after the child.”
Although agreeing that the changes to parental leave would be welcomed by many, Jonathan Exten-Wright added: “However, it is likely that some aspects of shared care arrangements will be complex and difficult for employers to implement, despite the fact that actual take-up of the new rights is expected to be low.
“Another significant step is the introduction of the right to request flexible working for all employees, even for those who are not carers in any capacity. While the right has been extended, employers are also being given much greater flexibility over how they deal with requests and significantly longer to make a decision on whether to allow flexible working.”
Katja Hall, CBI Chief Policy Director said that shared parental leave could be a “win-win for employers and employees, by supporting working families while helping businesses to retain talent” Regarding the new rules for employers on considering requests for flexible working she advised: “Businesses have to balance the needs of all their employees as well as customers, so they must retain the right to say no.”