50% of SMEs in Northern Ireland are supportive of shared parental leave, with 26% against the concept.
These findings come from the latest Close Brothers Business Barometer, a quarterly survey that seeks the opinion of SME owners and managers from a range of sectors across the UK and Ireland.
Until March 2015r, new mothers could take up to a year’s maternity leave, whereas employed partners were allowed just two weeks away from work on paternity. Since 5th April, in addition to the compulsory two weeks maternity leave, parents can now share a total of 50 weeks between them as they see fit.
According to our research, of those who are supportive of the changes, 44% see a benefit in terms of staff loyalty and a further 48% stress that this added flexibility is vital in allowing staff a good work/life balance.
However, of those respondents who are unhappy about the new legislation, 62% believe it could actually harm business continuity plans and create unnecessary complications for employers.
Head of Sales, invoice finance, at Close Brothers Commercial Finance, Paul Stephens, said: “When new laws come into effect it’s inevitable that a period of nervousness may follow as any potential impact of the changes come to light. However, shared parental leave is designed to provide more flexibility for parents and more choice, which is good thing for staff engagement and the workforce as a whole.
The survey further found that 16% of employers in the region are completely unaware of employee rights on the issue."
Mr Stephens continued: “Maternity leave and employee law in general can be a confusing. Our advice to business owners would be to take time to educate themselves and their staff and seek advice from the HR experts.
“In today’s climate, education is key and companies should ensure they apply this approach not only to when it comes to employee law, but right across all aspects of the organisation including sales, marketing and crucially, finances.”