Beyond the letter of the law

first_imgApproximately 100 organisations took part in the survey andmore than half of those had 500 employees or more. Respondents came from arange of organisations from FTSE 100 PLCs, investment banks, City institutionsand major corporations to charities, universities, regulatory bodies, museumsand small, family-run businesses. The questionnaire was also sub-divided intosectors covering finance, manufacturing, technology, media, retail,pharmaceutical and leisure. Comments are closed. Respondents The survey asked whether the maternity policy provided forpart-time work or job share on return from maternity leave as this can be avery difficult issue for employers. While there is no right to return to workon a part-time basis, employers are under an obligation to consider seriouslyall requests for part-time work. Refusals would need to be objectivelyjustified in order to avoid a claim for indirect sex discrimination. Theleisure and pharmaceutical sectors scored extremely well in this respect. At theopposite end of the spectrum, the financial and manufacturing sectors had thelowest rates. Part-time work and sex discrimination Policies and flexible working Parental leave One of the most surprising and encouraging features of thesurvey was the prevalence of policies dealing with family-friendly rights. Thequestionnaire asked which of the following bespoke policies respondents had in place:maternity; time-off for dependants; part-time working; job share; careerbreaks; sabbaticals; equal opportunities; non-harassment; secondments; parentalleave; paternity; and homeworking. Every organisation had its own maternityleave policy, and despite parental leave being a very recent right, 82 per centof respondents had their own policy. Employers have responded positively to the raft of new”family-friendly” legislation, according to research by law firmAllen &Overy A high percentage (64 per cent) of organisations said thatemployees had taken time off for dependants. Although there is no right to paidleave, 48 per cent of respondents offered it on a paid basis, the majority ofwhich were in the financial (46 per cent), leisure (60 per cent) andpharmaceutical sectors (33 per cent). Related posts:No related photos. Flexible working arrangements appear to be increasing inpopularity with 20 per cent of organisations having a job-share policy and 24per cent allowing homeworking. However, only 56 per cent have a formal policyon part-time working.  To see how employers are responding to the new rules and togain some understanding of sector norms and practices, Allen & Overy’sLifestyle and Equality Group conducted a survey of its clients. The results were extremely interesting in relation to thenon-cash benefits offered during additional maternity leave, particularly asrespondents also top-up pay. The results showed a high percentage of respondentswilling to continue these benefits, even though there was no obligation to doso. We surveyed the following benefits: private health insurance; pension;holidays; life assurance; and company cars. Eighty-two per cent continuedprivate health insurance benefits, 76 per cent of respondents provided pensionbenefits, 68 per cent holiday, 79 per cent continued life assurance cover and64 per cent offered the use of the company car. In the retail sector, every respondent continued privatehealth insurance, pension and holiday throughout the entire period ofmaternity. In the financial sector, 87 per cent of respondents provided lifeassurance and 84 per cent private health insurance.These results clearly demonstrate that employers are optingfor administrative simplicity. It can be labour-intensive (and may have costimplications) to stop and start benefits for employees. The provision ofenhanced benefit is also seen by employers as a recruitment and retention tool. Maternity Family-friendly policies in the workplace are at the heartof this government’s social reform programme. Employers have been inundatedwith new legislation, regulation and guidance on good practice. The right toparental leave and to time-off for dependants was introduced in December 1999.This was followed in April 2000 by new rules to simplify some of the complexitiesof the maternity legislation. Then came direct rights for part-time staff inJuly 2000. Beyond the letter of the lawOn 1 Dec 2000 in Personnel Today The statutory scheme does not allow for employees to useparental leave as a means of returning to work on a part-time basis by taking,say, two days’ parental leave each week. Leave may only be taken in blocks ofone week and upwards. Few of the organisations surveyed (22 per cent) providedfor leave to be taken in blocks of one week or less. Time off for dependants The survey also addressed the issue of whether an employeewho had been refused part-time work had issued sex discrimination proceedings.The results were not altogether surprising. A larger proportion of sexdiscrimination claims occurred in those sectors where returning to workpart-time was either prevented or discouraged (financial and manufacturing),whereas claims were virtually non-existent in the sectors that offered flexibleworking to maternity returners. Only 12 per cent of organisations surveyed offered paidparental leave, all of which were in the manufacturing and financial sectors.When the right to parental leave was first introduced there was muchspeculation that there would be a low take-up rate because it was unpaid. Thisis not borne out by the survey. Thirty-six per cent of all organisations takingpart said that they had received requests for parental leave – the same or higherthan the take-up rate in those sectors that offer it on a paid basis: 34 percent in the financial sector and 21 per cent in the manufacturing sector. Previous Article Next Article Conclusion These results are noteworthy because it appears from thehigh level of policies in most areas that employers are being extremelypro-active in terms of policy drafting and flexible working. There was aparticularly high correlation between the range of policies offered andcentralised personnel functions, although, perhaps contrary to expectation,this seems to have little to do with the existence of trade unions and workscouncils. Although there was some criticism in the survey responsesabout the volume of workplace legislation, for the most part the frustrationappears to be directed at the complexity of the rules rather than the rightsthemselves. The results show that many organisations are embracing andimproving on the new statutory rights in an attempt to steal a march in theincreasingly competitive labour market. As an alternative to above-inflationpay increases and volatile share option benefits, a family-friendly, flexibleworking culture appears to be an increasingly popular way of countering theproblems of recruiting and retaining good staff. The basic legal position is that employees, irrespective oflength of service, have the right to 18 weeks’ ordinary maternity leave. Foremployees in service in excess of one year, the entitlement is to 40 weeks’leave, 11 weeks before the expected week of childbirth and up to 29 weeks afterchildbirth. This is referred to as additional maternity leave. In relation tostatutory maternity pay, eligible employees are entitled to 90 per cent ofaverage earnings for the first six weeks and a flat rate of £60.20 for 12weeks. During the ordinary maternity leave period, an employee is entitled toall the terms and conditions in her contract, except for pay. So for example,holiday continues to accrue throughout the 18 weeks. On the commencement ofadditional maternity leave, although the contract continues to subsist, there isno legal obligation to continue benefits. The results reveal an increasing trend of “toppingup” the basic statutory entitlements to pay and leave, perhaps reflectinginadequacies in the current rights, particularly with regard to pay. Forty-sixper cent of respondents offered enhanced rights to leave and 51 per cent topay. The most generous on pay and leave was the pharmaceutical sector with 66per cent offering both enhanced leave and pay. Other sectors, such asmanufacturing, scored low on leave (28 per cent) but high on pay (42 per cent). None of the organisations surveyed has asked staff topostpone taking leave, indicating that the right is not as disruptive tobusiness as some commentators had suggested. Although the legislation providesa statutory right to parental leave only for parents of children born after 15December 1999 (currently the subject of an “implementation challenge”to the European Court of Justice), 22 per cent of organisations surveyedoffered parental leave to any employee with a child under five. last_img

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