Flexible Benefits – for Employers?

Parental Leave

Parental Leave

You often hear managers or employers shouting “what, they’re off again!” but flexibility in the workplace and the way that we manage employees and the ways in which they work , if dealt with in a fair and proactive manner, can be a great benefit rather than a hindrance to organisations.

There are lots of obvious benefits to working flexibly for individuals, some of the more popular ones are that it fits in with people’s changing lifestyles or it allows people to manage other demands on their time from family commitments, for example. But you don’t often hear employers stating that having a flexible workforce is the best thing that they have ever done, or sharing some of the benefits that it can bring.

There are many benefits to employers who take full advantage of HR Support and the various legislative provisions regarding flexibility and the various leave arrangements. There is, for instance, often a marked increase in morale, commitment and retention as employees have greater control over the hours and ways in which they work. This creates a more loyal and productive team of employees where less time is lost in the working day through absenteeism or time management issues.

However, many of the current legal or popular provisions such as flexible working, parental leave, career breaks, and shared maternity/paternity leave are limited in their take up. Indeed I have only dealt with one case of shared maternity/paternity leave since its introduction in April last year!

This could be down to employer’s lack of understanding of how productive and committed a flexible workforce can be or fear over the perceived additional administrative burden that this could entail. But I would encourage those employers to bite the bullet; look at your current levels of sickness absence, employee engagement and levels of stress within your teams and ask whether this could be alleviated in some way by looking at the current ways of working and whether a more flexible approach would benefit both your employees and your organisation.

In March 2013 the Government will finally be introducing an increase to the level of parental leave that employees can take. Where an employee has one year’s service with their employer, from March next year, they will be able to take up to 18 weeks unpaid parental leave.

The current parental leave provision is set at 13 weeks leave for each child under the age of 5 or under 18 years where the child is disabled. Each parent who is employed and has the right length of service has a right to apply for parental leave. The only provision being that, you must be either the parent or have parental responsibility for the child.

This is a great move by the Government to extend the level of flexibility for employees who use parental leave to spend more time with their family.

Organisations should be looking to update their relevant policies and communicate this change within their workforce as a positive move and a further effort to increase the work life balance that we are all striving for!