Group urges Government not to delay family friendly reforms
A group of charities representing working parents has written to the Prime Minister to urge the government to press ahead with reforms such as extending shared parenting and flexible working after press reports that the Goverment may delay them.
The Modern Workplaces consultation paper proposes to extend the right to request flexible working to all employees and suggests allowing fathers and mothers to share parental leave in the first year after a baby is born. Recent reports suggest Government advisers are against some of these proposals, particularly for smaller businesses.
In the letter, the Working Parents Group writes:“We write in support of the proposals in the recent consultation paper “Modern Workplaces” as we believe that further change is critical to your aim of delivering a more family friendly Britain. We urge you not to delay the further reforms which will benefit the economy as well as families.
“Good employers already reap the benefits of widespread flexible working from reduced absenteeism and recruitment costs, to improved performance and commitment from flexible workers. They have nothing to fear from the proposed extension of the right to request to all employees. Indeed, as the impact assessment shows, extending flexible working will bring a financial saving of £222.5 million to employers. In these difficult economic times, all businesses should be looking to maximise performance and reduce costs. We urge you to encourage all businesses to reap the benefits of allowing flexible working for all employees as soon as possible.
“We know too that there are economic reasons for extending family friendly policies in the workplace. Good maternity pay and the presence of family friendly options have led to high return rates after maternity leave. Today 77 per cent of mothers return to work after childbirth. Conversely, employers who don’t offer any family friendly options see their return rates drop to 48 per cent. There is a clear economic benefit to employers from retaining skilled workers, while families and the economy benefit when mothers are able to continue in work.
“The equality arguments for change are strong: men need flexible and family friendly working arrangements too, but today’s system of maternity and paternity leave is unbalanced and limits families’ choices. Allowing fathers to share the leave will help families, particularly where the mother is the breadwinner and anxious to return to work. Many employers will benefit too if women return to work sooner. The Modern Workplaces proposals recognise the reality of modern parenting - that both mothers and fathers need time to bond with their new baby and may want to change their working patterns after the birth.
“Both parents need time to be good parents and we should see this time as an investment: it is parents who shape and inform the employees of the future. Family time is important both for children’s wellbeing and for building strong family relationships. Ministers have already promised that the introduction of more flexible leave arrangements will not happen before 2015, giving plenty of time to employers to prepare and for further consultation on the details. We recognise the danger of any further delay or watering down of the proposals: the coalition’s objectives will not be met, nor will we take a critical step towards a more family friendly Britain. It is vital that the Government presses ahead with these important reforms.”