Arguing that the current regulations are ‘too rigid’ and ‘out-dated’, ministers hope the proposals set out in the `Modern Workplaces’ consultation will give parents greater flexibility in the workplace.
Yet business groups have raised concerns over the plans, with some suggesting that small firms will struggle to administer the proposed changes.
Under the proposals, mothers would retain 18 weeks’ maternity leave which would be taken in one continuous block around birth.
The existing entitlement to a further 34 weeks’ maternity leave would then be reclassified as ‘flexible parental leave’, which will be available to either parent on an equal basis. The existing entitlement to a further 21 weeks’ maternity pay would then be reallocated as ‘shared parental pay’.
The Government proposes that four weeks of parental leave and pay would be reserved for each parent (to be taken in the first year), while the remaining 30 weeks of additional parental leave would available to either parent – of which 17 weeks would be paid and can be broken in blocks between parents.
In addition, the Government proposes extending the right to request flexible working to all workers who have been with their employer for 26 weeks.
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said it recognised the need for parental reform and flexible working hours, but it warns that the latest proposals will hurt small firms.
“For a small firm, organising cover and workloads for a member of staff that has decided to take chunks of parental leave from work – not a continuous period of time – will be extremely burdensome and difficult to administer,” commented FSB National Chairman, John Walker.
The CBI has also expressed reservations over the proposals. ‘We are concerned by proposals to increase the total period of parental leave by another four weeks, given the UK already offers some of the most generous provisions in the world,” said CBI Chief Policy Director, Katja Hall.