Earlier this month, the Shared Parental Leave Regulations came into effect, which allow new parents to share the maternity leave entitlement of 52 weeks, provided the mother takes two weeks off directly after the birth.
It is the biggest change to parental leave in a generation, and is designed to allow millions of families the chance to better manage their work/life balance and make decisions suitable to their personal circumstances. But while the new choice is excellent news for parents, small and medium sized businesses need to be aware of the potential impact to their business and QualitySolicitors warns they must have the right parental leave policies in place.
QualitySolicitors conducted a survey of 1,000 UK fathers to give SMEs some insight into how fathers in Britain will use their new leave entitlement. It showed that whilst the majority of men plan to take advantage of the change to spend more time with their newborn, some are reluctant to take more time off work on statutory pay – citing work pressures and money worries.
The research* showed:
– 61% of fathers would take their full entitlement of the paternity leave available under the new law
– 22% said they wouldn’t take it – the main reasons for this amongst this group were financial pressures (44%) a sense of duty to be the breadwinner (34%) and a fear of being stuck at home with a newborn (25%)
– Almost a quarter (24%) said it’d create ‘too much hassle’ at work if they were to take extended leave. Nearly a fifth (17%) said it’d damage their career whilst a sixth (16%) said they thought their colleagues would resent them.
– Worryingly, 8% say their company makes them feel ‘very uncomfortable’ about taking time off and nearly a sixth (14%) say that their employer would really struggle without them there. Younger employees (30%) are more likely to worry about the pressure placed on their colleagues, compared with just 14% of dads aged 40 – 45 years.
Ian Horner, SME legal expert at QualitySolicitors said: “ It is clear that Dads up and down the country welcome the recent changes to parental leave legislation. As the biggest change in parental leave law for generations, this brings a unique set of challenges for SMEs who should make sure they have the right parental leave policies in place. It is crucial that employers and fathers-to-be have frank conversations as to how businesses can absorb the additional workload so that fathers taking extended leave can take advantage of what is crucial bonding time with their newborn child and businesses can continue to function effectively in their absence”.
While the full impact of the new parental leave legislation will take time to assess, it needs not be a crippling issue for SMEs as long as they understand their rights and obligations and plan ahead.
*The research was conducted in March 2015 by One Poll and asked 1,000 fathers for their views.