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The trigger date - 6 April 2003. Family Friendly rights, brought to employees and employers alike with the implementation of the Employment Act 2002. These include increased maternity leave together with the introduction of paternity leave, adoption leave and the new right to request flexible working. Amidst the plethora of information on the legal detail of these “family friendly” rights – Derian Keyms takes a moment to consider the HR perspective – what “family friendly” measures should employers now take?
Information on the UK’s new family friendly rights is widely, and freely, available. It’s said that “the devil’s in the detail” – well, there’s more than enough legal detail, and in abundance! But what’s lacking is information and guidance for employers on what to do now. How to stay ahead, and how to minimise the risk of a claim. Much of my article may seem blindingly obvious – but so are most issues, with the advantage of retrospect. So I invite you to join me in a quick rundown of top tips for employers…
In a nutshell, these consist of my “Five C’s” - Compliance, Contractual, Clarity, Communication and Consistency:
Compliance. Ensure awareness and understanding of what the statutory minimum provisions are, together with any collective or workforce agreements that may also govern internal provisions.
Contractual. Review existing arrangements and cross check those with individual contractual rights. Revisit “Custom and Practice” – what actually happens as opposed to what you think should happen!
Clarity. Try and minimise misunderstanding with the use of simple, clear and user friendly language. Ensure defined procedures and processes for employees, managers, HR and payroll – a step-by-step guide.
Communication. Communication of new policies and procedures should be both proactive and effective, using a combination of methods such as noticeboards, internal memos, in-house magazines and the company intranet. Consider appointing an expert to channel queries and maintain a consistent approach.
Consistency. Avoid inconsistency by the use of standard application forms, pro-formas and model letters, discouraging such practices as informal notes or memos. Work out trigger dates in advance and use them as the basis of a project plan to ensure that everything happens according to plan. Lastly, ensure consistency and equality of treatment between male and female employees.
Family Friendly = Employer Friendly? A matter of opinion. Many countries in the European Community are now racing to catch up on discrimination laws that the UK have been accustomed to since the mid 70’s. In turn, we are now racing to catch up on family leave issues that have been a matter of course for many years with our European neighbours. Choice is not an option – but a forward thinking, proactive approach is. There’s no doubt that the next few months or years, will be challenging. The gauntlet has been thrown down. I believe that we will rise to the opportunity.
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