Posted by: the3rdi | March 22, 2010

Calls for new government to extend flexible working and improve fathers’ rights.

Today, Working Families publishes its annual report on its free legal advice service for disadvantaged parents and carers who are seeking help with employment rights and benefits.

The report identifies five key areas of concern which are:

1) discrimination against women who are pregnant or on maternity leave

2) forced changes in contracts

3) fathers

4) time off for dependants

5) health and safety of pregnant women

Many of the key themes in the report for 2009 relate to the economic downturn. These were:

* a large number of concerns about redundancy were recorded. The helpline advised 350 women and 20 men on redundancy issues.

* the downturn has been used as an excuse by some employers to discriminate against women who are pregnant or on maternity leave.

* the tendency for some employers to impose changes in contracts to the detriment of working parents. In an effort to cut costs, some employers are requiring parents to change their working patterns with disastrous impacts on family lives.

The report sets out again Working Families concerns about fathers’ eligibility for paternity leave and pay and the difficulties parents and carers face when they need time off work to care for their children or dependants.

A new theme for 2009 is the health and safety of pregnant women. Employers’ ignorance of their responsibilities to carry out health and safety risk assessments for pregnant women needs to be addressed.

Sarah Jackson, Chief Executive of Working Families commented:
“The case studies in our report reveal how difficult it is for some of the UK’s most disadvantaged employees to assert their employment rights, and how Working Families’ legal team are helping parents keep their jobs.

“We call on the Government to send a strong message to employers that they will not tolerate poor and discriminatory treatment of pregnant mothers and those on maternity leave. It is also unacceptable that parents are disciplined for taking time off to cope with sick children: more flexible parental leave is clearly needed.

“Our report shows that legislative change is needed to support fathers too. Extending the right to request flexible working to all employees would make it more acceptable for fathers to achieve the balance they need, while changes to paternity rights would increase the precious time fathers can spend with a new baby.

“We also call on employers to consider the impact of imposing changes of contract on parents. Changing hours at work or shift patterns, without agreement, can have a devastating effect on carefully balanced childcare arrangements. A little more consideration to how work is redesigned, in consultation with employees, will help keep parents in work and employers will reap the benefits of a loyal and productive workforce.”

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