CIPD responds to government announcements on flexible workers and greater equality in parental leave.

Steps forward.

The CIPD has responded to two workplace measures announced by the government one to introduce measures to protect workers on variable hours, such as compensations for shifts cancelled at short notice, the other to give greater equality in parental leave.

“The Government’s proposals will provide better support for vulnerable workers while protecting the flexibility of the UK labour market,” said Ben Willmott, head of public policy for the CIPD on the subject of compensation for cancelled shifts: “If we want to create fairer, more inclusive workplaces we must address one-sided flexibility that benefits businesses but puts individuals at a disadvantage. Zero hours contracts can offer people flexibility they need but it’s been far too easy for some employers to cancel shifts with very little or no short notice. Workers not only lose out on pay but also suffer unnecessary travel costs and disruption. It’s absolutely right to make companies pay reasonable compensation if this happens and we welcome this, and other measures proposed to protect workers on variable hours.

“The introduction of a right to switch to a more predictable work pattern should give workers more choice over their working arrangements,” he added. “However, circumstances in which employers can refuse this will need to be clear.  A right to reasonable notice of work schedules is also a proposal that will be welcomed by atypical workers and good employers as long as there is flexibility over what is ‘reasonable’ given the nature of the work.”

“The clampdown on poor practices, alongside the announcement of a single enforcement body to oversee these efforts, is an important step towards the Government delivering on the Good Work Plan,” he continued. “However, these measures will need to be delivered alongside better support for businesses, and small firms in particular. Smaller businesses can struggle to have the knowledge, resources and capacity to effectively manage their people, which can lead them to unintentionally fall foul of employment legislation. The provision of better support and resources for smaller employers, to help them improve their people management practices, should be part of a modern and progressive enforcement system.”

Elswhere, Jill Miller, diversity and inclusion adviser for the CIPD, commented on the move towards more fair parental leave: “We welcome this consultation and fully support the need to update parental leave policies to better reflect the changing nature of modern families and progress gender equality at work,” she said. “We know take up of shared parental leave especially is low and so discussion of possible reforms is a step in the right direction. The current arrangements don’t go far enough to allow many fathers to take an active role in being with their child in the early days or to allow families balance and choice over how they share caring responsibilities during the first year of a child’s life. Having this choice is also essential if we are to address the ‘motherhood penalty’ many women face in their working life, in terms of pay and progression.”

The CIPD notes that pay is often called out as a limiting factor behind the poor take up of paternity and shared parental leave, and many people simply don’t feel able to take the leave because of concerns it will reflect a lack of commitment and could undermine their career progression. “Government action to pinpoint and address the sticking points must be coupled with employer action to create cultures where people feel comfortable and confident to request paternity leave and shared parental leave,” said Miller. “A crucial step is training managers, so they know people’s rights. We also know that seeing is believing so it’s important that businesses have role models at a senior level who have taken such leave and we believe it’s good practice that businesses publish parental leave policies on their website as well as making them easily accessible internally.

“Discussion of neonatal leave and pay is also an important step forward,” added Miller. “At a stressful and difficult time, forward-thinking employers should make it possible for partners to be present with their family.”

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