Proposed maternity leave increases could hit employers’ profits

family_friendly

Proposed maternity leave increases could hit employers’ profits

family_friendly

The States of Jersey have launched a “family friendly employment rights review”. In essence, this is not a review but a consultation with a view to extending family friendly employment rights.

The consultation touches on a number of topics:

  • longer periods of maternity, parental and adoption leave;
  • allowing a longer period of leave to be shared by two parents;
  • giving surrogate parents rights to leave;
  • time off to attend antenatal appointments for fathers and partners;
  • time off to attend adoption appointments for adoptive parents;
  • right to request flexible working for all employees, not just those with caring responsibilities.

These are large subjects for consideration so this blog focuses on the proposals for increasing maternity, parental and adoption leave only. We will come back to the other topics in other blog posts.

The current position

The following new family friendly rights came into force on 1 September 2015 on the same date as protection against discrimination on grounds of sex and maternity/pregnancy:

  • paid time off for the pregnant employee to attend antenatal care appointments;
  • 2 weeks’ paid compulsory maternity leave and 6 weeks’ unpaid maternity leave;
  • an extra 10 weeks’ maternity leave for an employee with 15 months’ plus service;
  • the right to return to work after statutory maternity leave;
  • 2 weeks’ unpaid parental leave;
  • 8 weeks’ adoption leave, or 18 weeks for an employee with 15 months’ plus service;
  • the right to request flexible working for employees with caring responsibilities;
  • protection against detriment and dismissal for associated reasons.

The proposal

Consider extending the rights to statutory leave to provide –

a. A longer period of unpaid maternity leave
b. A longer period of unpaid parental leave
c. A longer period of unpaid adoption leave
d. A longer period of paid maternity leave
e. A period of maternity leave paid at an enhanced rate
f. A period of paid parental leave
g. A period of paid adoption leave

The consultation gives the reasons for parents not taking more maternity/adoption/parental leave as financial (71% of women) or because employers had a policy limiting leave (69% of men).

It is, therefore, reasonable to conclude that any extension to leave that might come into force will benefit only those employers who have very beneficial maternity payments (generally a small number of larger and/or public sector employers), or those employees with other significant sources of income.

If you work for an employer who bases their maternity pay on statute only (currently two weeks pay), then you will likely struggle to benefit from any additional leave provisions.

The question then is: if additional financial help needs to be provided to enable parents to benefit from any extension to maternity/adoption/parental leave, who pays? Will the employer be required to increase maternity pay from 2 weeks to a greater figure, or will the States increase maternity benefits?

We might be jumping the gun here but we cannot see the States increasing maternity benefit, so that means maternity pay from employers will have to increase. So, let’s assume maternity pay was to double from 2 to 4 weeks pay. This would undoubtedly benefit a number of parents, but would they still be able to afford to take any increased provision for leave? Based on the statistics provided by Social Security, probably not! In these circumstances, you might be forgiven for asking what is the point of these proposals if parents cannot afford to take advantage of them?

Recommendations from the consultation will be made by end of 2017, but public responses need to be in by March 2017. This means that the current legislation will only have been in place for 18 months. This time frame means many small employers with small numbers of employees may not yet have had any experience of the current legislation and may find it difficult to take a view on the proposals.

Law At Work will be responding to the consultation document, but we urge employers to also make their thoughts known.

If you would like to respond, you can do so here:
https://www.gov.je/Government/Consultations/Pages/FamilyFriendlyReview.aspx

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