Friday, 11 August 2006

Paternity leave nightmare

Small businesses in Shropshire could face a nightmare situation when new paternity leave rules are introduced next year.

John Mehtam, the Employment Law Specialist at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Euston Way, Telford, said the Work and Families Act 2006 could bring real difficulties for business owners.

"The rules extend the right for employees to request flexible working hours if they are caring for an adult and, from April next year, paid maternity leave will increase from six to nine months.

"Employers will also have to allow any unused maternity leave to be transferred to the baby's father and they will be able to take it as paternity leave.

"But this will create even more administration for small business owners, on top of the already huge demands they are facing on a day-to-day basis.

"Obviously it's good news for parents as they will have even greater choices when it comes to caring for their children, but the rules could well create a nightmare situation for small companies."

John said it could be particularly difficult for firms to make a thorough check on each family's circumstances, to ensure the system was not being abused.

"If, for example, the parents have separated, and the mother is with a new partner, then feasibly two men could claim paternity leave for the same child - how can an employer check if this is the case?

"The Government has warned that companies who don't comply with the new rules could face fines, but it will be incredibly difficult for employers to administer this scheme.

"It seems that a lot of responsibility will fall on small companies who already find it difficult to keep up with the ever-increasing legislation in the workplace, and it's a burden they could well do without."

Consultation on the proposed new laws has now ended, but employers are still waiting for the final details of the scheme to be confirmed.