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People Matter July 2017

How family friendly are you?

Most parents will tell you that it can be a struggle when it comes to balancing work and family life. The school run, unexpected sickness, sleepless nights and costs…lots and lots of costs. Many companies are now beginning to realise the importance of supporting employees who have children.

Tech giant Google is well-known for its pioneering work culture, and its Mountain View campus in California boasts four childcare centres.

Facebook offer free meals and a free laundry service, alongside $4,000 ‘baby cash’ given to employees with new-borns. The company also subsidises the cost of childcare and provides help with adoption costs.

Unfortunately, there are plenty of examples of bad practice too – both through ignorance and deliberate acts. Such actions are very likely to see employers fall on the wrong side of a tribunal judgement. For example, you should never assume that pregnant women want to immediately be taken off big accounts or that they will no longer want to travel for work. Even if your intentions are positive, this is a form of discrimination. And that’s before we even talk about more overt discrimination like bullying or forced redundancy.

It’s not always easy for SMEs, but providing parenthood perks can be beneficial to you as an employer too. If you want to recruit and retain talented staff, they can be a major attraction, as well as enhancing your reputation. Whatever you do, it’s important to ensure that you give benefits equally – extending them to adoptive parents and same-sex couples too for instance.

Contact The HR Dept for expert advice on family benefits.

New court ruling on shared parental leave

A tribunal judgment has shaken the conventional view on how fathers should be paid under shared parental leave. It was believed that, if men and women were treated equally within a shared parental scheme, discrimination was not occurring. Even if a company’s maternity pay policy was more generous than their paternity scheme.

However, in the case of Ali Vs Capita, a father successfully claimed that he was being discriminated against due to being paid less whilst taking shared parental leave when his wife returned to work.The judgement is quite nuanced and similar claims have failed due to subtle differences.

If in doubt, you should have your policies reviewed to ensure that they are not discriminatory.

It’s raining babies!   

Count back nine months from September and October, and you may not be surprised to find that those autumn months are when most babies arrive. The cold, dark nights of the previous winter, the Christmas parties and all that!

We’re only a couple of months out from that period now, so are you managing any expectant mothers correctly? It’s essential to maintain communication with employees on maternity leave, be aware of contractual benefits, and know the appropriate pay rates.

Are any of your staff pregnant right now? If so, The HR Dept are here to advise.

Does adoption leave and pay differ from maternity/paternity leave and pay?        

A survey by Slater Gordon showed that 40% of managers try to avoid recruiting women of childbearing age because of fear of them having children.

Well, we hate to break it to them, but not only is that illegal, but nowadays any member of staff could opt to become an adoptive parent. They would thereby have the equivalent rights that are given to employees through pregnancy and maternity.

In 2008, same sex adoption was approved and the numbers have steadily grown to the point that last year, gay, lesbian and single adoptions formed nearly 20% of adoptions in the UK.

For adoptive couples, one person must be nominated as the primary adopter. They would receive the same rights as if they were on maternity leave. The secondary adopter would then have parental leave rights.

Prospective adopters must go through a rigorous assessment and training process before they are approved to be capable of parenting a child. Don’t you wish, when watching hopeless parents trying to manage unruly kids, everyone had to do the same?

To accommodate these training and approval panel days, primary adopters may attend five appointments as paid leave. Secondary adopters may attend two appointments as unpaid leave, although they may have more adoption meetings that need holiday or, with your approval, additional unpaid leave time off. A maximum of six and a half hours is given for each appointment. Agency workers must have 12 weeks service in the same role with the same employer to be eligible for this.

This period is likely to be an emotional rollercoaster, particularly once approved parents start searching for the right child – therefore, your support will be essential. Once approved, it can take a year or even longer to be matched. The key here is to keep communication lines open so that you’re aware of the stage they’re at.

After the employee has been matched with a child, they have seven days to inform you, and their 52 weeks’ adoption leave can start up to 14 days before placement – or 28 days before for children born outside the UK.

If any of these issues affect you, get in touch to ensure you handle them correctly.

Time off for dependant leave

All male and female staff have the right to take reasonable time off to deal with dependant emergencies. But this is not time to stay at home waiting for deliveries or service engineers.

It is unpaid time to deal with emergency situations. For example, when childcare arrangements break down, a dependant is taken to hospital, or putting care in place for elderly relatives. The key phrase here is ‘reasonable time’. This should usually be one or two days to enable other arrangements to be made. Not time off – a whole two weeks of chicken pox and the like.

You must ensure your policy clarifies this and that it states staff must ring you as early as possible, explaining what the problem is, and how long they plan to be away. This should not be a regular occurrence. If it is, particularly during school holidays, ask The HR Dept for help managing it.

Second birthday for shared parental leave

We don’t think the government will be hiring a bouncy castle and putting party bags together for the birthday of two-year-old shared parental leave.

The progressive, but complicated policy that allows both parents to split up to 50 weeks of parental leave has had an exceedingly low take up. However it is very complex and Maternity and Adoption statutory pay means many couples simply cannot afford the higher earner to take time off. There are undoubtedly cultural issues at play too – the kind of gender stereotypes that such a policy intends to break down.

One thing to watch out for is a new layer of complication. In 2018, grandparents will be included in the scheme. You may need an aspirin if you have to implement that!

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