Legal changes could hit small business

Chris Boyle, head of employment at Napthens Solicitors

Chris Boyle, head of employment at Napthens Solicitors

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Changes to employment law to allow parents more control over dividing up parental leave could cripple small businesses, an expert has warned.

Chris Boyle, head of employment at law firm Napthens in Preston, said the changes announced by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg yesterday could be “sustainable” for larger businesses with bigger workforces.

But, he warned it would “increase the burden” on smaller firms already struggling under a mountain of red tape.

Under other changes, the right to request flexible working will be extended to all employees to encourage different work patterns for parents.

Mr Boyle said: “Overall the announcement is a move in the right direction so long as a business can stand it and this is the seventh change to parental leave rules in ten years and although helpful for employees, companies will still have the right to refuse an employee’s request for flexible working.

“It will probably be sustainable in larger business with a big workforce but for small businesses it might actually increase the burden on them.

“Furthermore, at this point it is only a right to ask for flexible working, not a definite option to have it. Will the legislation actually have any teeth? I doubt it. It also remains to be seen how many people will take this up if we look at previous options for flexible working and the take up of these.

“As for encouraging women back into the workplace and creating female entrepreneurs that Mr. Clegg is looking for to help boost the economy, then again I’m not so sure, purely because his suggestion is for the right to ask for flexible working, not a statutory obligation.”