There’s a new piece of HR legislation that could cause a fair impact to business in the small business world. Statutory maternity leave has been about for a while and I don’t think that anyone would argue against its validity, even though there might be some short term difficulties to be dealt with by an employer. It’s also fair to say that maternity leave may create a few issues in terms of recruitment (in unscrupulous employers). There’s a temptation to avoid employing women of a certain age in case they decide, horror upon horror, to take a career break to have babies. Well, there are more changes coming in the next few weeks that have to be taken into consideration. Let’s assume that a small business has built up a workforce of, six people. They’re all blokes, not because the employer has a deliberate policy of recruiting only men, it’s just the way the team has developed; maybe it’s just the nature of the industry. Now, the employer may be thinking: ‘ha, ha... a happy consequence of having an all bloke team is the fact that I’m protected from the ol’ baby issue.’ Not any more. If a bloke and his wife/partner have a baby she can choose whether to take maternity leave or not. If she chooses not to take maternity leave, the fella can choose to take it instead. Not maternity leave, obviously, Parental Leave. The thing about is that the bloke has all the same rights if chooses to take parental leave as the mother would have had if she’d chosen to take a break. And it’s not going to be so uncommon, especially as salaries begin to equalise and the inherent unfairness in the ‘glass ceiling’ system begins to unravel. It’s now pretty common for the lady to earn more than the husband and, if all the legislation begins to work as it should, it will happen more and more. Probably about 50% of the time. So, what? Well, the bottom line is, if you are faced with this situation, at best you are going to left with a hole in your workforce you didn’t expect or plan for. You will have to deal with it... somehow. At worst, if your employee is entitled to more than simply statutory maternity (sorry) parental leave, then you will have to pay for it, too.
You have to leave the position open for a potential return and you have to make all the other provisions needed to make you legal in terms of returning parents. Food for thought.