Whilst organisations are legally obliged to follow statutory provisions for parental leave and pay, very few openly publish their policies for the general public to review. This can lead to prospective employees being unsure what their entitlements are, with some being reluctant to ask for more information due to fears of potential discrimination at the selection stage. As a result, the government intends to consult on ways in which companies can further promote the family friendly opportunities on offer within the business. The aim is to help individuals in combining the daily requirements of their job role with caring for their family.
The government suggests that companies with over 250 members of staff should be required to publish their parental leave and pay policies online so job applicants are fully informed on what rights they would have if they did choose to work within the organisation. For the purposes of the consultation, parental leave incorporates all family friendly provisions such as maternity leave, paternity leave, adoption leave and the right for flexible working. Whilst ensuring that employees are fully up to date with their statutory rights, this could also help a company to promote its family friendly policies if it does actually go further than the legal requirements.
It is also becoming increasingly apparent that many employees favour the option to work flexible hours outside of the traditional 9 to 5 bracket, something that any employee is eligible to request after they have completed 26 weeks of work yet may be hesitant to approach this issue with their managers. As such, the government is also to consider creating a duty for employers to outline if a job could be done flexibly from the application stage. This will help employees in deciding if they wish to proceed with a role, especially if their current personal situation means they would benefit significantly from the increased flexibility.
By ensuring that companies make this information readily available, the government hopes to encourage the continued participation and progression of parents, especially mothers, in the labour market, which can help attract and retain otherwise highly skilled individuals to roles and be the first steps in counteracting gender pay gaps within an organisation. Whilst it remains to be seen what the outcome of the consultations will be and what form the associated legislation will take, organisations should keep up to date with these developments and consider if their current parental leave policies are clear, concise and readily available to employees.