The government needs to take stock of the measures it has taken to promote work-life balance in the UK before making any further substantial changes to the legal framework, according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).
As work-life balance and employee right take centre stage at the TUC annual conference this week, the CIPD has also warned that the focus on rights for parents singles them out as a distinct group within the workforce and is a short term and unhelpful approach to work-life balance.
Instead, the CIPD has called on the flexible working rights to be extended to all workers when the government reviews the legislation three years after its April 2003 introduction.
Proposals by the Treasury and DTI to further extend statutory protections for parents, could meet real resistance from employers, warned Mike Emmott the Institute’s Head of Employee Relations.
"I suspect employers might see any proposal to allow fathers time off to attend antenatal care as gesture politics", he said, adding that it was "too soon to consider extending the period of paid paternity leave at this stage."
There was no case either for introducing unpaid paternity leave given the existing provision for parental leave, he added
"Most employees will have issues about work-life balance," Emmott said. "If the Government wishes to look again at the issue of unpaid leave, this should be addressed in its broader context rather than as a series of apparently unrelated employee rights.
In the light of recent CIPD research that shows that over a quarter of women downgrade their career aspirations when having children, Emmott also suggested that mothers should be able to claim support with childcare costs for their new child whilst still on paid maternity leave, so as to settle the child into childcare before returning to work.
"The government needs to be monitoring issues about non-return and the incidence of sickness absence following maternity leave since these are issues which can cause concern to employers."