22 July 2009
Maternity pay 'should be more flexible and fair'
The rules governing maternity pay should be more flexible and fair, it has been claimed.
In a new report, Reform - a non-party thinktank which aims to set out a better way to deliver public services and economic prosperity - claimed that many parents struggle to achieve a balance between family life and work.
According to the organisation, current parental leave arrangements represent a "double crunch" for poor families.
It suggests that while professionals and managers get "gold-plated" maternity benefits, those in lower-paid roles receive the least maternity pay and take the least time off.
Meanwhile, fathers are treated "at best as an irrelevance", Reform claimed.
The thinktank proposed a new approach which would rebalance maternity pay towards low-income families, would make it available to fathers and would give greater freedom over parental leave.
Such changes, it said, could be achieved within current levels of expenditure and would result in the abandonment of "unnecessary bureaucracy".
Employment solicitor Emma Hawksworth at Russell Jones & Walker commented: "Reform's findings certainly mirror our clients' experiences.
"Flexibility at work during and after pregnancy is a key factor for many of our clients and unfortunately it is not something which all employers get right.
"Many women leave jobs they enjoy because they are simply unable to have the balance between family and work which they need.
"We agree that a radical rethink of how we approach maternity and parental rights would be beneficial."