Consultation on Modern Workplaces: Business groups react to proposals on flexible working and parental leave

Business groups react to the government’s plans to introduce a new system of flexible parental leave and extend the right to request flexible working.

The government’s Consultation on Modern Workplaces, which closed yesterday, proposes that all workers should be given the right to request flexible working, rather than just those who have parental or caring responsibilities. In addition, fathers would be given an extra month of paid leave after the birth of their child.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) welcomed the proposals to extend the right to request flexible working but wants the government to resist pressure to create a two-tier labour market through exempting micro-businesses and start-ups.

Mike Emmott, employee relations adviser at the CIPD, said: “We are concerned that the government has even considered exempting micro-businesses and start-ups from the proposals, particularly when the regulations will come into effect after the current three-year moratorium.†

“Excluding businesses of any size from the application of employment regulation would tend towards the creation of a two-tier labour market and could be a perverse disincentive for small businesses to expand.”

Meanwhile manufacturers’ organisation EEF argued that proposals around flexible parental leave will lead to a significant administrative and financial burden on manufacturers, especially smaller organisations.

EEF believes that the proposals should be reformed to remove the opportunity for parents to take leave in several blocks or on a part-time basis and should not ring-fence a four-week period of leave for fathers alone.

John Walker, national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “Family leave should be tailored to suit each individual, a one-size-fits-all approach fails to adapt to those needs.

“Small firms are known as the most flexible employers, often operating in a small team that runs like a tight-knit family and the Federation of Small Businesses has been calling on the government to reform maternity and paternity leave by introducing a flexible leave system to allow parents to choose their leave arrangements.

“Parents should be able to choose how they receive their statutory pay but, in return, information must be given to the employer upfront and be taken in one block. In doing so, small firms will have more clarity on when that invaluable and skilled member of staff will return to work.”

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