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Play your part too! States warned over family-friendly changes

Play your part too! States warned over family-friendly changes

Thursday 14 February 2019

Play your part too! States warned over family-friendly changes

Jersey's politicians have been sent a stark warning about proposed new rules giving mums and dads up to a year off when they have a baby: it could send small businesses to the wall.

It comes from the Jersey Chamber of Commerce, in reaction to plans to make more changes to the Employment Law, to give more support to families.

The changes are being proposed by Social Security Minister, Deputy Judy Martin, as a second phase of changes which were originally put forward by the Employment Forum in December, 2017. They include:

  • 52 weeks of parental leave for all parents, including adoptive and surrogate parents;
  • time off work to attend appointments for adoptive and surrogate parents;
  • breastfeeding rights, including breaks and workplace facilities;
  • paid leave, where necessary, on health and safety grounds for pregnant and breastfeeding women.

Parents would be able to take the 52 weeks in up to four blocks, of no less than two weeks each, over a three year period; six weeks of the 52-week leave period would be paid by the employer at the employee’s normal rate of pay.

Eliot Lincoln

Pictured: Chamber President, Eliot Lincoln. 

However, the Chamber of Commerce has hit out at the proposals, saying that while they support the desire to help families, these plans will put too much of the cost onto businesses, and the Government should play its part too.

They warn that if agreed, some small businesses will cease trading, as they won't be able to afford to implement them. 

Chamber commented: "The first challenge employers will face is an increase in costs: of funding the longer paid period of the recommendation as well as those incurred in seeking parental cover for parents. The current market is extremely buoyant, so to find the right person to cover business activities for a short period is an expensive and time-consuming process."

Family Friendly

Pictured: the changes to the Employment Law which are currently being proposed. 

The body continued: "For some smaller businesses it will truly be a deciding factor for whether to trade at all, for others it will be something that will erode small margins or could even tip a business into a loss-making position. In addition to this, the fact that the recommendation provides both parents the right to take up to 52 weeks leave, it will make it even more difficult for the employer to fill what could be sporadic but significant gaps in their workforce."

Chamber argues that in the UK, employers are able to get funding from the government to provide this support, which is up to 103% of the costs for small businesses.

Eliot Lincoln, President of Jersey Chamber of Commerce says: “Whilst we fully support the aims of this potential new legislation, seeing our families supported, healthy, well cared for and educated as they become the next generation of employers and business leaders, we feel that the financial burden to be put on our businesses is too great and will place significant challenges on the smaller businesses in particular.”

baby father family

Pictured: the Employment Law changes significantly increase the amount of leave fathers can claim. 

Chamber's stance put them on a collision course with Ministers, who are backing the proposals as part of their aim to 'put children first'.

In a Government media release sent this week, Deputy Martin, said: “This extension of employment rights is progressive and inclusive. Our proposed changes to the Law follow consultation with employers and employees, undertaken by the Employment Forum in 2017. We want to improve the situation for parents in the workplace, giving families more choice and flexibility to help meet their work and family responsibilities.

"The changes we are proposing will also encourage gender balance in childcare roles."

The Government argues that extending family friendly employment rights puts children first,  and helps to create a sustainable, vibrant economy and skilled local workforce for the future, while also reducing income inequality and improving the standard of living. 

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