Work and Families Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:15 pm on 25th April 2006.

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Photo of Baroness Morris of Bolton Baroness Morris of Bolton Deputy Chief Whip, Whips, Shadow Minister, Education, Shadow Minister (Children), Health, Shadow Minister (Women), Trade & Industry 6:15 pm, 25th April 2006

My Lords, organisations including Working Families and the Equal Opportunities Commission have raised important concerns about certain issues surrounding paternity leave, which the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, has emphasised by tabling these amendments. We are the first to recognise the important role a father plays within the home in the nurture of his children. One of our concerns about the right to existing paternity leave is its rigidity, a point forcefully made in Grand Committee and again today by the noble Baroness.

Employers may be concerned that if paternity leave may be taken in a series of single days, it might mean that some fathers would work 10 four-day weeks. Some businesses could ill afford that, but others might prefer their employees to take their entitlement in individual days rather than in whole weeks. Further, if an employee takes only one week, then to lose his entitlement to the other week is harsh. It could also be that some employers and employees want a mixture of whole weeks and single days.

Legislation should not be so prescriptive that it does not provide flexibility when it is desired and agreed between employers and employees, and employees would be happier with their current entitlement if there was more flexibility. Perhaps this is a way forward, and I hope very much that the Minister will agree to consider the proposal before Third Reading.