Running a business and being a good employer: the balancing act

Improving work/life balance and helping parents to be the main carers of young children are stated aims of the Government. With over 40% of all employees now responsible for children, what does this mean for business?

Increasingly, no employer is safe from family rights. These have broadened, so that anyone you employ or recruit, whatever their gender, age or sexual orientation, may become entitled to one or more of a list of rights. The more useful (and perhaps senior) the employee and the smaller the business the more disruptive such rights can be, though employers who want to attract and retain good staff have to approach the issue constructively. Anyway, the law gives little choice.

The Government is set to again increase family rights in the workplace, following commitments in the last manifesto. The Work and Families Bill, which is well on its way through the parliamentary process, will authorise regulations to include-

  • Extending maternity leave to all working new mothers to one year regardless of length of service in April 2007;
  • Extending maternity and adoption paid leave from 6 month to 9 months as from April 2007 and later on to a year;
  • Extending paternity leave for new fathers in the 12 months following birth or adoption, probably with an increased part of it paid. The mother will be allowed to transfer maternity leave and pay to the father, leaving parents able to choose which of them stays at home during the child’s first year (note especially that he will not even have to be the father, just a partner with parental responsibilities);
  • Extending the current right to request flexible working to include carers for adults
  • Making public holidays paid in addition to the 4 weeks current paid holiday.

For further useful information on existing and future rights go to www.dti.gov.uk and see Employees and Work/Working Families or Working Parents. If in doubt take good professional advice.

Frances Barker is an employment specialist and trainer at Blocks Employment Service.Contact her at Blocks Solicitors on tel. 01473 343905 or frb@blockslegal.co.uk

Frances will be talking about legal changes, including about age, at major Business Link Seminars in Ipswich and beyond during 2006. To book contact the BLS Team on 01473 417000.

Printed with kind permission from the East Anglian Daily Times.