FSB: Flexible parental leave will hurt small firms

Government plans to extend flexible working rights and introduce a new system of flexible parental leave will hurt small firms, according to the Federation of Small Businesses.

Government plans to extend flexible working rights and introduce a new system of flexible parental leave will hurt small firms, according to the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).

The lobbying group has been calling for the need to reform parental leave for some time, but believes that proposed government changes could allow both parents to take off time in chunks, rather than in one block, which would make administration of the leave far more complicated than it already is.

Parental leave should be tailored to suit each individual since a ‘one size fits all’ approach does not work for small businesses, says the group.

While the FSB understands that parental leave should be flexible, small businesses need their staff to give information about what time they will have off up front. In doing so small firms will have more clarity on when that invaluable and skilled member of staff will return to work, according to the organisation.

The government is also planning to consult on extending the right to request flexible working to all employees, but the FSB argues that small businesses already offer flexibility in the workplace and that formalisation of these rules would be another bureaucratic burden on small firms, especially given that they are already doing it.

FSB national chairman John Walker says, ‘The government has committed to reducing the amount of red tape that small firms have to wade through in running their businesses. Yet, it wants to introduce additional complexity and new legislation, making it even more complicated and time consuming in the process.

‘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.’

Walker adds, ‘Small businesses already provide flexible working for their employees and so we would urge the government not to formalise this process as it would just add to the red tape burden on small firms.’

Director General of the BCC, accuses the government of rushed thinking regarding the reforms to parental leave

David Frost, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), has accused the government of ‘rushed thinking’ regarding the reforms to parental leave announced by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg yesterday.

Frost has trenchantly criticised the proposals, which include allowing parents to split leave into short periods rather than take it all in one block, saying they ignore ‘the needs of business’ and go against the ‘pro-growth, pro-business, pro-jobs agenda’ as outlined by David Cameron last week.

He adds, ‘This is too difficult for small businesses to deal with, and could prevent them from taking on staff at a time when they are expected to create wealth and jobs.’

The Department for Business will be launching a consultation soon to explore proposals for an alternative system of parental leave and consider how best to extend the right to request flexible working to all employees. Among the proposed changes is giving a father the right to take more time off work if a woman does not wish to use her entire maternity entitlement.

The coalition government wants the new system in place by 2015.

Alistair Tebbit, spokesman for the Institute of Directors (IoD), says the current system is already costly for SMEs. ‘If employees were given the opportunity to take leave in short blocks, the system would become virtually unmanageable – how would firms arrange cover?’

Not everyone opposes the reforms. CBI director for employment policy, Katja Hall, says the moves could help families balance work and home life, but adds, ‘Any changes will need to be simple to administer and must allow firms to plan ahead to cover staff absences.’

Related Topics

Parental leave