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Paternity Leave

– in the Scottish Parliament on 19th April 2018.

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Photo of Fulton MacGregor Fulton MacGregor Scottish National Party

1. To ask the Scottish Government what its position is on increasing the legal entitlement to paternity leave, and what discussions it has had with the United Kingdom Government regarding this. (S5O-01967)

Photo of Jamie Hepburn Jamie Hepburn Scottish National Party

Although e mployment law remains reserved to the UK Parliament and is the responsibility of the UK Government, we are funding the family friendly working Scotland partnership to promote family-friendly and inclusive workplaces to employers and employees in Scotland.

The Scottish Government, including its agencies and non-ministerial departments, provides eligible employees with up to four weeks of consecutive paternity leave at full pay. We would encourage other Scottish employers to work in partnership with their workforces to consider voluntarily offering a similar enhanced paternity leave.

Additional devolved powers in relation to employment would provide the Scottish Parliament with the ability to strengthen employment rights that work for Scotland. With the impact of Brexit still to come, the Scottish Government will publish a discussion paper on that in the next few months.

Photo of Fulton MacGregor Fulton MacGregor Scottish National Party

A number of studies have linked longer paternity leave with a wide range of positive outcomes, including greater maternal wellbeing, reduced incidence of postnatal depression and fewer behavioural problems in children. Does the minister agree that employers can benefit from offering enhanced rights in the workplace and would he join me in encouraging employers in Scotland to offer enhanced paternity leave of four weeks?

Photo of Jamie Hepburn Jamie Hepburn Scottish National Party

Let me reiterate that I would absolutely encourage employers to do so and not just for the reasons that Mr MacGregor has set out in terms of child wellbeing and parental wellbeing. We know that flexible working has a clear benefit not only for employees but for employers, because when an employer operates on a flexible basis in relation to their workforce, they can end up with a more motivated workforce, reducing absenteeism, achieving better retention rates and increasing productivity.

That type of approach is important not only for families but for the Scottish economy. That is why we are, as I mentioned, funding the family friendly working Scotland partnership. It is a partnership that we participate in; we have provided £857,000 since 2014-15 for that programme. We are also promoting our fair work agenda on a wider basis.

Photo of Michelle Ballantyne Michelle Ballantyne Conservative

Has the Government done any assessment of the impact of increased parental leave on small to medium-sized enterprises? Those are obviously the areas of business that are most likely to suffer from employees being absent for a period.

Photo of Jamie Hepburn Jamie Hepburn Scottish National Party

I have just made the point that a flexible approach, irrespective of the size of employer, can in fact lead to reduced absenteeism, better retention rates and increased productivity. That is what the evidence demonstrates—not just in relation to enhanced paternity leave, but across the board in terms of the flexible work agenda. SMEs and other businesses and employers across Scotland could stand to benefit by adopting that flexible approach.