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Shared parental leave legislation may breed resentment

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A lack of clarity in the proposed shared parental leave laws could lead to disputes between employers and their staff, an employment lawyer has warned.

The new legislation means that parents who work for separate companies might need to negotiate the terms of their leave across two organisations and HR departments. A lack of co-operation or time to arrange the leave properly on both sides could lead to lengthy disputes and problems for all parties.

Marian Bloodworth, employment partner at international law firm Berwin Leighton Paisner, told HR magazine the practicalities of shared arrangements may be more complex than the Government or employees realise.

"Arranging complex patterns of leave, such as if one of both parents want to take periods of truncated leave, could put real strain on employers trying to administer this legislation for the first time," she said. "As always the responsibility for these changes will land on the shoulders of the HR department."

These problems will be more pronounced in SMEs, which may not have as many resources as the large corporates to implement the changes. With auto-enrolment already stretching some HR and payroll departments in 2014, this may be another policy that is difficult to embed. Bloodworth said that many companies will feel they are running just to keep up with the raft of changes in recent times. 

The main risk that companies face is the threat of discrimination claims around the new legislation.

"Companies are very worried about getting it wrong. Without any malice on their part they could find themselves in a situation where they face a claim because they didn't fully understand the rules. Even if financial restraints prevent a claim being made, the lack of understanding could lead to resentment that affects employee engagement. This is likely to deter companies from using the new regimes," she said.