By Daniel Hunter
More than three quarters of businesses welcome shared parental leave despite concerns about its complexity and many are considering adapting their maternity packages in light of the new legislation, according to a survey of employers by Workingmums.co.uk.
The survey of over 400 employers, sponsored by WM Recruit, found 81% welcomed shared parental leave, with 19% - mainly smaller businesses - saying they would find it difficult to implement in their organisation.
Some 13% were still unaware of SPL and 19% were aware, but were unsure what impact it might have on them.
Over half (56%) said they were still preparing a policy on it with challenges including increased paperwork for smaller businesses and concerns about the complexity of dealing with mums and dads who work in different organisations. A quarter already had a policy on it by early December.
Many employers said they had either adapted their company maternity package (15%) and a further 39% were considering adapting it, for instance, reducing what they offered to mothers in order to increase what they offer to dads.
The survey, which is published in the same week as government statistics on employee attitudes to shared parental leave, also questioned large and small employers about the impact of new legislation on the right to request flexible working, which was extended to all employees in June.
It found that 11% would be more cautious in granting flexible working as a result of the extension and 53% said they would grant it on a case by case basis despite 30% saying managers find it hard to manage multiple requests. Some 58% of employers think flexible working improves retention, with only 9% saying it doesn't.
Only 3% think it makes workers less efficient with 36% saying staff who work flexibly are more efficient. The biggest benefit of flexible working was retention of staff, particularly women returning from maternity leave. While 25% said they faced no challenges in implementing flexible working, for those who did the biggest barriers were that their business or their clients demanded set hours.
Gillian Nissim, founder of Workingmums.co.uk, said: “It is interesting to see how many employers welcome SPL despite some concerns about its complexity and about red tape and how they are looking at ways of making it work. However, there still appear to be a number of employers who are not aware of it or had not thought deeply about its implications. It will be important for those who emerge as leaders in this area to spread information about what they are doing to make the new legislation work so that others, particularly those with fewer resources, can see the benefits.
"It is also good to see the positive attitude of employers to flexible working. However, a small number say they will be more cautious as a result of the extension of the legislation to all employees. Caution is understandable, but there are many employers who already offered flexible working to all employees and have established a flexible culture who are reaping the rewards. Employers may need more support to implement a truly flexible culture rather than reacting on an ad hoc basis to requests.”
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