Unions warn of maternity pay cut
Proposed changes to parental leave could result in half of all working mothers taking cuts in their maternity pay, the TUC has warned.
And the union body warned that plans to weaken the right to request flexible working risk giving the green light to employers to abandon family-friendly practices.
The warning came in the TUC's submission to a Government consultation on proposals to allow mothers and fathers to share parental leave.
Under the changes - due to come into effect in 2015 - once the early weeks of maternity and paternity leave have ended, parents will be able to share their overall leave allowance between them, dividing it up in the way that suits them best. Employers on Monday warned that the changes could impose additional burdens on business.
Alexander Ehmann, head of regulation at the Institute of Directors (IoD), said: "The IoD strongly supports flexible working and efforts to expand the talent pool available to employers. In principle, we also support shared parental leave, providing the administration of the leave is not burdensome to employers.
"Unfortunately, though, the Government is implementing these proposals in a way that will add to the complexity and cost of managing workforces. This contradicts the pro-growth, deregulatory message that we keep hearing from ministers."
The TUC raised concerns that mothers could lose out financially if the current 52-week statutory maternity leave is replaced by an 18-week period of designated leave for mothers, after which time at home can be shared between parents.
Nearly 60% of working mothers currently receive contractual maternity pay above the statutory minimum - the vast majority of them for 26 weeks, said the TUC. Reducing the designated period to 18 weeks could lead mean-spirited employers to slash costs by reducing the length of contractual maternity pay too, it warned, urging the Government to set the designated period at 26 weeks.
A Department for Business, Innovation and Skills spokesman said: "Earlier this year we launched a consultation on our plans to extend the right to request flexible working to all and introduce a new system of flexible parental leave from 2015. This consultation closes today (Monday August 8) and we will be outlining our next steps when we publish the Government response later this year.
"The opportunity to embrace flexible working is essential to a successful and competitive labour market. Our proposals are a win-win situation and make sure that as many employees as possible can take advantage of the benefits of flexible working."