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New parental leave laws to be delayed over business concerns

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NEW family-friendly laws are to be delayed amid concerns from businesses about the impact year-long parental leave will have on small companies.

Deputy Kirsten Morel

The legislation would allow both parents up to a year off work, with both receiving six weeks’ pay. It is due to be debated later this month and, if approved, would come into force in September.

Social Security Minister Judy Martin has confirmed that three amendments have been lodged to the proposals after concerns were raised during recent Scrutiny hearings.

They are:

Increasing the notice period an employee must give of any changes to their parental leave dates from 14 days to 28 days.

Parental leave to be taken in no more than three blocks (reduced from four).

Parental leave to be taken over a two-year period (reduced from three years).

However, Deputy Kirsten Morel, who chairs the Economic Affairs Scrutiny Panel which is reviewing the proposals, has written to the minister asking the proposition to be withdrawn for further research to be carried out.

In his letter, Deputy Morel said the panel ‘wholeheartedly support the principles underpinning the Law, as do the majority of stakeholders we have spoken to. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, we have simply run out of time to explore the concerns put forward to us in further detail. We feel it would be remiss of us not to investigate these concerns in order to establish whether amendments to the legislation are necessary.’

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Deputy Martin refused to withdraw and the debate is scheduled to take place at the next States sitting.

She said: ‘I have listened to the views presented to Scrutiny by local businesses and I appreciate their concerns. I am lodging this amendment to address those concerns and to improve the position for businesses without detracting from the original policy intent, which is to improve the rights of families and support gender equality in the workplace.

‘The draft Law that I lodged with the States will complete a significant step in progressive employment legislation, supporting equal parental leave for men and women and encouraging businesses to provide breastfeeding facilities, to support employees returning to work after childbirth.’

Deputy Morel said there needed to be drastic changes to the proposition – and his panel would be forced to call the legislation in for further Scrutiny review in order to bring a ‘raft of amendments’.

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He said: ‘I wrote to the minister and asked her to withdraw it and I thought it would be better if she withdrew and redrafted it rather than us having to bash into shape.

‘She has responded and I understand her position. But, we will have to call it in which means it will be delayed.

‘We need to spend the appropriate time we need to review and amend. Rather than rushing through to try to add amendments at this stage we would rather take the necessary time and get it done properly.

‘Either way, there will be some delay as either the minister withdraws it or we have to call it in.’

Since September 2018, new mothers have been entitled to six weeks’ paid leave and the other parent to two. Both parents are entitled to a total of 26 weeks of leave each.

In the UK, mothers are entitled to a year off work, 39 weeks of which are paid, and fathers 26 weeks, two of which are paid. A shared-leave system also exists and allows parents to share up to 50 weeks off, 37 of which are paid.

The proposition is due to be debated on Tuesday 30 April.

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