From 2015, small businesses will be subject to new legislation, allowing fathers equal right to time off after their children are born. New parents will be able to share the 50-week leave period, and even divide this time into chunks. Bosses will need to need to agree any proposed pattern of time off, however, and can insist on a continuous block of leave. Parents can change the timings of their leave three times only.
“As an entrepreneur, this is a disaster,” said Andrew Yates, founder of software company Artesian Solutions. “It’s very difficult to build a business in the UK. I don’t think this has been thought through.” Artesian Solutions employs 60 staff in the UK, of whom 30pc are women. “We already factor in the possibility of maternity leave when we hire women,” said Mr Yates. “But for this to be equally applicable is perilous. If this comes through, we’ll have to up our staffing estimates significantly to cover possible leave.”
Not all entrepreneurs take this view, however. Simon Duffy, boss of the Bulldog Natural Skincare brand, which exports its line of men’s skincare to 12 countries, is in favour of parental leave. “”As a father, this is absolutely brilliant,” he said. “It’s vital for dads to be able to bond with their kids. Of course, implementing this will not be without its complications but we are keen to work with our staff to find solutions that work for both of us.”
John Allan, national chairman of the Federation of Small Business, added: “The decision to give each parent a maximum of three opportunities to request leave as opposed to an unlimited number will make the system far more manageable for small businesses, while still maintaining flexibility for parents.”
Shaa Wasmund, founder of small business advice organisation Smarta, warned that firms who do not embrace flexible working will lose staff. “You will definitely lose people in the long term if you don’t let them work flexibly, and live a happy and fulfilled life,” she said.
“This will only be a headache to implement if government makes it a headache. All we need is for government to introduce clear, easy to follow guidelines. Changes in legislation do not hurt small businesses, but red tape does.”