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Monday, 16 April, 2001, 23:57 GMT 00:57 UK
Business attacks extra parental rights
mothers with kids
The government hopes to be seen as family friendly
Business leaders in the UK are urging the government to abandon "unrealistic and sentimental proposals" to make life easier for parents who work.

The plans include allowing women returning from maternity leave to demand part-time or flexible hours and giving fathers the right to two weeks' paid paternity leave after the birth of a new baby.


The current maternity rights are already putting employers off recruiting youngish women

Ruth Lea, IOD

But the Institute of Directors (IOD) has condemned the plans, saying they would damage business and harm the very groups - especially women of childbearing age - they were intended to help.

"The unrealistic and sentimentalist demands for further 'work-life balance flexibilities' fails to understand how business works," the IOD said in a report published on Tuesday.

"Any further 'work-life balance' regulation could only damage business," it said.

A balancing act

The government is keen to appear family friendly, but it faces a difficult balancing act reconciling flexibility for parents with the needs of business.

Ministers argue that helping employees get a better balance between family and work helps the whole economy because businesses would find it easier to retain and recruit skilled staff.

But critics say the burden of family friendly policies - such as the right to time off for family duties - would fall on other staff without caring responsibilities.

'Turning the clock back'

Ruth Lea, head of the IOD's policy unit hit back at the people she called "work-life balance protagonists".

She said: "The current maternity rights are already putting employers off recruiting youngish women.

"Any more rights will make it worse. I can only watch as the existing regulations turn the clock back".

Last month the British Chambers of Commerce also criticised the plans.

They warned ministers that new rights for working parents would "damage competitiveness, increase costs and could jeopardise existing flexible working practises".

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See also:

07 Dec 00 | Business
Family Friendly
08 Mar 01 | Budget 2001
Families under the Budget
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