Parental Leave – the latest twist
There is talk that the proposed sharing between parents of 58 weeks of maternity and paternity leave – 22 weeks for the mother, 6 for the father and the remaining 30 weeks to be shared (including simultaneously, if the employer agrees) between the parents as they choose – could be delayed from April 2015 to October 2015. Finalised plans are expected to be announced later this month.
The apparent reason for the change of plan is Government disagreement over the impact of staying off work on business: official government figures state that 420,000 families could benefit from the opportunity to move leave from one parent to other, allowing the main earner, if the mother, to transfer leave to her partner; whereas DBIS figures suggest a much lower figure of up to 13,500 families. The question here is about benefit: how are the family benefits to be balanced against the potential business detriment, in an environment where the benefits to business generation of the removal of red tape and cumbersome legislation is a Government priority at a time of a drowsy economy and a General Election on the horizon.
Both the Governments own, as well as the DBIS figures are, of course, so small that they might prompt many to ask the question: does any of this matter anyway? The answer, at the moment, is probably “no”, because the effectiveness of new rights normally needs to go hand in hand with social change – particularly a trend of higher rates of pay for women that justifies – in most households – the women, rather than the man, becoming the person working as the major breadwinner; but also a sea change by everyone in the approach towards career progression, pay and bonuses, of taking an extended time off work.
Of course it may all come to nothing – this is, after all, party political conference time, when ideas are thrown out to the faithful, to be lapped up and then forgotten- because this latest twist is only a delay, not an abandonment of the changes. Consequently, employers who are planning (yet) another change to their family friendly policies shouldn’t put everything back in the drawer marked “pending”, because the future will have to be addressed in the next 2 years. What is really interesting, however, is whether issues that have previously tended to be female-only issues will, in the meantime, become parental issues – which could be the game-changer in the long term.