Know what to expect when you’re expecting

How the 2015 paternity laws will impact you and your business

Recent research shows that more than half of employees think flexible working helps them achieve a better work/life balance. Other reported benefits include increased productivity, reduced stress and the ability to manage caring responsibilities1. The government proposes replacing existing maternity leave provisions with a more egalitarian, flexible approach; recognising the role of the new Dad or partner. The legislation is scheduled for October 2015 and the changes proposed are dramatic. New mums will be able to return to work two weeks after childbirth and share the rest of their 12 month maternity leave with their partner.

On the upside, this could have a positive effect on the lives and careers of working women, who have traditionally paid a high price – suffering discrimination at work2, and struggling to combine the demands of a job and motherhood.

On the downside, the new measures have the potential to cause administrative chaos amongst small businesses, as the proposed changes facilitate non-sequential chunks of leave, in blocks of as little as one week at a time.

The Federation of Small Businesses’ comments:- “Extending the right to flexible working will simply increase administrative pressures on the smallest of business at a time when the Government should be doing all it can to enable them to grow. We would want to see safeguards for employers who are unable to accommodate requested leave patterns.”3 SMEs are increasingly important to our beleaguered economy. They make up 9.9% of the UK’s 4.8 million businesses, employing 47% of all staff in the private sector and accounting for 34% of private sector turnover.4

Given these figures, it makes sense for the Government to help small businesses deal with the proposed changes, but self help is always the best policy. In short, the proposals are:-

– That a new mother will be entitled to two weeks ‘recovery’ time and thereafter may share the remainder of her maternity leave with her partner.

– The mother and her partner are able to divvy up the remaining 50 weeks between them.

– Parents may choose to take leave in turns, in different blocks, or at the same time.

– Nine months, of the twelve, are paid.

– Current paternity leave legislation will remain at two weeks, to be reviewed in 2018.

Here’s how to prepare for the changes:

Be proactive and understand the particular needs of your workforce. A successful policy requires transparency and the cooperation of all concerned.

Put an effective notice system in place to map out the 50 weeks of leave and put appropriate cover in place, in good time.

Establish relationships with freelancers to create a ‘talent pool’ of go-to workers who can substitute during times of parental leave. Research providers such as oDesk 5 for suitable candidates.

Make provision for flexible working to help the transition; including job sharing, flexi-time part-time employment, remote and home working. Three quarters of UK employers feel that implementing flexible working practices has a positive effect on talent retention, while 73% report a positive impact on motivation and staff engagement.6

And lastly, both men and women report that their career prospects are adversely affected when they work flexibly to meet family commitments. To maximise staff retention and minimise the cost of recruiting new staff it pays to work with your employees and look at ways to improve their productivity and career progression.7

1 Flexible working provision and uptake, CIPD Survey Report, May 2012
6 Flexible working provision and uptake, CIPDSurveyReport, May2012