Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg is due to announce today that new mums and dads will be able to split the entitlement to take time off work after the birth of their child.
Mr Clegg, who took an extended period of paternity leave when his first son was born, has criticised existing “outdated Edwardian parental leave laws” and said that the change will help businesses to “retain talent and boost their competitive edge.”
I’m all for equal opportunities, but who is he kidding? The government is always telling us how much it supports small and medium-sized businesses – yet this is the type of plan that threatens to kill many of them off.
Existing parental leave is a nightmare for tiny businesses, with many employers, particularly those in hi-tech sectors, finding it impossible to get cover for key staff. The idea that from April 2015 parents will be able to share 52 weeks of leave is madness. Even more so when you add in the government’s other changes, like all parents of children under 18 being able to take up to 18 weeks of unpaid parental leave per parent per child and all employees with 26 weeks of continuous service getting the right to request flexible working.
For me it simply shows how out of touch the government is. Most ministers who had careers before politics worked in huge corporations – where a handful of employees being on leave didn’t make the slightest difference to the smooth running of the business.
It’s a completely different story if you’re running a small company and have to cope with the type of disruption this complicated new system will cause. I’d love to see how Nick Clegg would manage if he was the boss of a business.