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IPPR Calls to Double Paternity Leave

familyIPPR – The Enemy of Small Businesses?

In another outburst to strike fear into SMEs throughout the UK, calls are being made for statutory paternity leave to be doubled.

The IPPR, that doyen of the ‘centre left’ claims in their report ‘The Condition of Britain’ that such a move would encourage fathers to spend more time with their newborn children.

In typical hedging his bets mode, whilst saying nothing of value and committing to less Ed Miliband launched the report whilst studiously failing to endorse all its proposals. For once this may be a good thing.

One such proposal is the IPPRs call for automatic qualification for a paternity leave entitlement of four weeks at the prevailing minimum wage.

The IPPR claim the cost would be ‘just’ £150m in 2015/16 and it estimates that 400,000 fathers each year would benefit.

Or in other words businesses would lose a further 1.6m weeks of work or 8m days. Clearly that ‘cost’ has not been factored into the equation by the IPPR.

Currently ‘only’ 55% of new fathers choose to take the two weeks to which they are entitled, for which the IPPR claims that the loss of pay prevents the remainder taking their entitlement.

The IPPR estimates that delivering their proposed changes would increase the ‘take-up’ rate of paternity to leave to 70%.

Something clearly doesn’t add up here. Doubling the length and cost of the leave for 220,000 fathers who already take the leave simply serves to keep them from the business longer and at greater expense yet it only encourages a further 60,000 to take the leave.

Employers, especially SMEs, can precious little afford to lose staff for such a period of time and frequency, this does not mean they are luddites but it does mean they would rightly be concerned as to the effect of another open ended leave policy being on the horizon.

Kayte Lawton, Senior Research Fellow at the IPPR said:

“New parents need time away from work to care for their young children, and to strengthen their relationship with each other at what can be a hugely enjoyable but also very stressful time.

“However, this is often difficult for fathers because they have limited entitlements to paid leave, and so they often assume the role of breadwinner while their partner is on maternity leave.

“Fathers who take more than a few days off around the birth of their child are more likely to be actively involved in raising their child than those who do not.

“Fathers’ greater involvement in family life can make it easier for mothers to return to work after taking maternity leave, which helps to raise the family’s income and lessen the impact of motherhood on women’s careers.”

Quite how taking more people out of the employment pool for longer and at greater cost will afford employers to invest in more staff is utterly unclear.

This totally unscientific view appears to completely miss the point and concerns of the small business, already from April 2015 all businesses must provide 52 weeks of leave to both parents rather than the current limitation to mothers.

SMEs across the country will shudder to think of the very real commercial impact these missing employees will have on their operations, competitiveness and bottom line.

That is not to say modern employers, of whatever size, are ignorant of the cultural shifts in the family unit but to see a further enshrinement of right to leave over and above that which already exists brings a very real portent of inefficiency and unhelpful hesitancy in employment decisions for fear of employing staff only to lose them for extended periods

In an alarming failure to show any awareness of the crucial constituency of the employer, Jon Cruddas, the Labour MP heading the party’s policy review, praised the IPPR report, saying it would tackle issues such as:

“more, better-quality childcare; early years intervention; investing in preventing social problems; getting people off welfare and into work; building the houses we need; creating access to affordable credit; developing a new system of care for older people; and establishing the principle of contribution in our welfare system”

The lack of joined up thinking in the report was highlighted by a significantly more constructive recommendation for an extension of free childcare to 48 weeks per annum up to the age of four.

A prime example of a policy benefitting the parent to enable them to access the job market and ultimately provide a much needed resource boost to their employer.

If only the rest of the report could have been so clear headed.

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