Workers in companies that employ fewer than 100 people are losing out on a number of family-friendly benefits such as parental leave, according to new research by Croner, a provider of workplace information, software and services and part of global information services business Wolters Kluwer.
The survey of 1,175 working adults by YouGov for Croner reveals that on average three in 10 businesses employing fewer than 100 employees appear not to offer any family-friendly measures despite the fact that a proportion of the workforce is entitled to them by law.
Under current legislation, employees have a number of rights in relation to maternity leave and pay, paternity leave and pay, leave and pay for adoptive parents, parental leave and the right to request flexible working.
Carol Smith, senior employment consultant at Croner says that while she’s surprised at the number of people in the survey who they aren’t offered family-friendly measures, it likely because “businesses employing fewer than 100 employees tend not to have a dedicated and suitably qualified person to manage HR. So it usually ends up being a line manager’s or business owner’s responsibility. As this is often a bolt-on to their day job, unsurprisingly they tend to have a lower awareness of general HR issues, employee rights and employers' obligations.”
She warns that a lack of awareness will not give employers protection in an employment tribunal. Croner’s advice for small-business bosses therefore is that “they should equip themselves with the necessary training and support to deal competently and confidently with HR issues and rights. If in any doubt they should seek external help to avoid falling foul of the law and to avoid costly litigation.”
Croner’s survey results come in the same week that the government faces a backlash from women’s groups, employers and even ministers regarding changes to maternity legislation. The changes, drafted by the Liberal Democrats want paternity leave extended to six weeks—up from a fortnight and maternity leave to be an automatic 18 weeks of paid leave. At the end of that period, it becomes “parental leave” and can be taken by either parent. Chancellor George Osborne warned the changes could increase the regulatory burden on small businesses. Women’s groups argued that bosses may see 18 weeks as a “default” period of time off for new mothers. Supporters, however, hope the new legislation will end the so-called “maternity penalty”, which sees women incur a loss of earnings and career status after having a baby.
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