Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is to announce that the Government will allow couples to choose how they divide parental leave, with fathers to be given up to ten months of paid paternity leave, The Government reckons this will benefit families, but did they stop to think about the impact on employer and employee?
Consider the employee. The prime motivation for this Government meddling, sorry intervention, is sexual equality. However, parental roles have not changed so much that they have completely reversed. For instance, only 4% of men with dependent children work part-time, compared to 38% of women. The Government’s time would be better spent trying to incentivise families, with lower taxes and increased tax relief on Child Care Vouchers.
Research by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) showed that half of small businesses found the current system of maternity leave complex to administer. Any additional changes may make the system unworkable, and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – University of Westminster research has found that small businesses already have more flexible working than both big business and, surprisingly, the public sector.
This Government seems to be all about big headlines, this time supposedly showing a caring side, however, as usual, it’s everyone else that’s left to pick up the pieces. The current system works reasonably well, with flexibility between employer and employee. The effect of the changes may be for employees to take paid leave at will, as of right, leaving employers short.
The equality the Government is dreaming of would be far better achieved in the free market economy we keep hearing so much about, where there is no Government intervention. As an employer, why would you consider expanding until the implications of the new rules become clear? Firms need an incentive as well to retain the best staff.