Parental work rights plan ‘could stop firms employing new staff’

A baby
A baby

New plans to extend the work rights of parents have been met with concern by one business lobby group.

Stephen Farry, Stormont’s minister for employment and learning, yesterday unveiled plans which would affect the working arrangements of couples who are due to have a baby.

According to Dr Farry, the plans allow workers to ask for more flexible hours, and for a “new system of shared parental leave and pay”.

It would, he said, “allow eligible working families to have more choice about how they balance their work and caring commitments.

“Parents can choose to be at home together or to work at different times and share the care of their child.”

But the Federation for Small Businesses (FSB) said this could risk adding to the burden of ‘red tape’ faced by small firms.

Wilfred Mitchell, the FSB’s policy chief for Northern Ireland, said: “The absence of one or two members of staff within a small business can prove burdensome to the daily running of the business yet, regardless of this, many FSB members already provide flexible working hours for their employees.

“Businesses need some degree of certainty against which to plan, so informal arrangements often offer the best solutions for employee and employer.”

Some businesses are only just getting the confidence back to hire staff, and it was suggested more rules and regulations could dent employers’ willingness to hire.

Dr Farry’s department had consulted on the measures it plans to take, and said there had been general support. They form part of the Work and Families Bill soon to come before the Assembly.

Dr Farry said he is hopeful the new rights will be in place by next April.