Hot topic: longer paternity leave

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Labour leader Ed Miliband has pledged to double paid paternity leave and increase statutory paternity pay if his party comes into power in May's election. What would the implications of such a change be for employers, especially with shared parental leave (SPL) legislation coming into effect this April?

As a progressive employer, we are supportive of policies and proposals that give people more flexibility and choice over how they balance work and family life. We see the benefit in allowing the new shared parental leave rules time to bed in – the merit of other options such as additional paternity leave can then be considered.

Proposals to extend paternity leave to four weeks and increase statutory paternity pay are likely to have a disproportionate impact on the operations of SMEs. However, large firms may reconsider offering full paternity pay for the entire period.

Our view is that offering two weeks fully-paid paternity leave to new fathers is the best thing to do for both the business and the individual. New fathers are able to enjoy important family time, without concerns around work or pay, while our business is relatively uninterrupted. The result is that most, if not all fathers, will take their full paternity entitlement.

The proposal to double the statutory paternity pay to more than £260 a week would bring it in line with the minimum wage and make it more appealing – particularly to those who do not already receive full paternity pay from their employer. What we would likely see is a sharp increase in individuals taking full paternity leave at smaller businesses, where financial pressures may have deterred them from doing so previously. The doubling may have adverse impacts on smaller businesses.

While large businesses, like ours, are able to be more flexible regarding paternity leave, and many could accommodate extended leave for fathers, a change in paternity entitlement could pose significant admin, headcount and cost challenges to smaller businesses. The logistical and resourcing issues would need to be managed carefully, in order to deal with the risk of a depleted workforce if men take up to four weeks’ leave.

Sarah Churchman is head of diversity & inclusion and employee wellbeing at PwC

Check back tomorrow for part two of this Hot Topic

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