Magazine article Management Today

Get Back to Work, Daddy

Magazine article Management Today

Get Back to Work, Daddy

Article excerpt

Can business afford to pay the high cost of paternity leave?

From June 1998, an EU directive will give each parent the right to three months' unpaid leave after the birth of a child, in addition to statutory maternity leave. The UK government currently has an opt-out from European social legislation, but this could change if a Labour government comes to power. Most worrying for business has been the question of rights of employees to paternity leave. Of the 300 plus organisations (employing a quarter of the UK workforce) that belong to Opportunity 2000, 70% offer paternity leave, but generally this means only two to three days. How much paternity leave can business afford, and who offers it now?

American-owned Massey Ferguson gives up to two days' paid paternity leave to its 1,500 hourly-paid shopfloor workers, and three days' leave for salaried staff, explains HR manager John Mockler. Mockler's wife is expecting their first child in May, and he has elected to take two weeks' holiday after the birth. He says: 'No business in its right mind would offer employees three months' paternity leave with pay, and I wonder how many hourly-paid people could afford to take unpaid leave.'

However, there are organisations which make a point of generous parental leave provisions. Avon Cosmetics, for instance, offers five days' paid leave to be taken within three weeks of the child's birth, paid leave to attend pre-natal treatment, paid leave for the day of the birth, and more. A spokesperson for Avon, Vicky Smith, says: 'We have a generous policy of extended leave; we are very flexible to support individual needs, balanced with the needs of the business. …

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