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Paternity leave plans draw business ire

18 January 2011

Business leaders have attacked plans, unveiled yesterday by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, to overhaul the UK’s “Edwardian” statutory leave entitlement for new fathers. The plans go beyond even those put forward by the previous Labour Government, giving parents the power to effectively share the time currently allowed for maternity leave, as well as special “use-it-or-lose-it” leave, which could only be taken by the father.

But the proposals have drawn a swift and largely negative response from business groups, which warned they would place an unmanageable burden on companies and harm the job market. One of the main concerns among employers seems to be that new parents will decide to take off several short blocks of time, rather than one long stretch of leave, making it difficult to plan effectively.

Alistair Tebbit of the Institute of Directors warned the plans would be seen as anti-business and that Mr Clegg was endangering the coalition’s "pro-enterprise credentials". British Chambers of Commerce director general David Frost added that small firms would be particularly hard hit by the uncertainty he felt the proposed changes would introduce.

The CBI was somewhat more magnanimous, urging the Government to work with employers on a solution which was acceptable to everybody.

A full public consultation is planned and no changes will be made until 2015 at the earliest.

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