New Government faces 'thorny issues' on employment

The challenge facing the current Government in its quest to support flexible paternity leave is brought into sharp focus today with news that around a quarter of UK organisations offer no paid paternity leave above the statutory minimum. 

These are the main findings from the Labour Market Outlook ‘Employer Focus’ survey of 800 respondents from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and KPMG.

 Employers are not embracing fully the drive to encourage fathers to take more paternity leave. Only 40% of organisations offer working fathers 2 weeks’ pay at or near the full rate of pay, while around a quarter (24%) offer no paid paternity leave beyond the 2-week statutory level.

 And of all the recent innovations in employment regulation, the survey finds that employers view the Working Time Regulations (28%) and the Agency Worker Regulations (32%), due to come into effect in October 2011, as of most hindrance to business. Only 28% and 13% respectively believe they will be helpful.

 Employers are, however, more enthusiastic about other pieces of employment legislation.  More than four in ten employers believe that the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) (45%), the Age Discrimination Regulations (42%) and the Data Protection Act 42%) have been helpful.

 Mike Emmott, Employee Relations Adviser, CIPD, says: “While employers are supportive of the national minimum wage and a plethora of equality rights, they are yet to be convinced about the merits of the Agency Workers Directive and the Working Time Directive.  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.

 “The more intractable challenge to both the Government and employers lies in encouraging more working fathers to take up their entitlements to paid paternity leave.  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 will have to think imaginatively if it is to nudge and lead this change.”

 Sarah Bond, Head of Diversity and Employee Engagement at KPMG, says: “The new Government’s plans to encourage a system of flexible parental leave will be welcomed by employees who struggle to balance their work/life. Research indicates that the demands on those caring for children will rise in the next ten years. The number of carers will undoubtedly alter the working pattern of both women and men in the years to come. Therefore, progressive businesses are going to have to look very carefully at the family support packages they offer to see whether they mirror these changing trends. There are real incentives for businesses here too – 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.”

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