Ahead of the planned deliberations by the States for the
proposed maternity legislation next week, an amendment has been
submitted to effectively introduce the concept of shared parental
leave to Guernsey. The mechanics of how such a system would need to
be worked out, but under the proposed amendment partners would be
able to share the entitlement to either maternity or adoption leave
(but excluding the 2 week period of compulsory maternity leave) as
well as the 10 'Keeping in Touch' days. Although the
amendment makes no mention of the fact, it is likely that if
introduced employees would also require a minimum period of
employment before becoming eligible.
At this stage it is not clear whether or not this amendment will
have the necessary support to become law. However, if it were be
approved alongside the rest of the package of measures to introduce
new maternity laws to Guernsey, it would represent nothing short of
quantum leap forward for Guernsey in terms of family friendly
rights. By way of comparison, mothers in the UK have had the right
to take maternity leave since 1975, yet it is only since April this
year, a full 40 years later, that partners have had the right to
share that leave. Whilst such a radical step is creating headlines
today, in practice the likelihood is that the take up of such a
right would be relatively low. Whilst no detailed research exists
of what interest partners would have in exercising the right in
Guernsey, analysis carried out by the UK Government in 2013
suggested that the expected take up of the new right would only be
between 2% and 6% of eligible employees. On the basis that the
right in Guernsey would also be unpaid and given the numbers of
births each year, the likelihood is that we may only be talking
about single figures exercising the right each year, therefore for
the vast majority of small businesses, the likelihood is that this
amendment will not impact on them in any way.
What this change will involve, without question, is the
wholesale rewriting of almost every maternity policy on the island.
Those employers who already offer enhanced maternity leave and pay
for new mothers, will need to consider, for example, how they are
going to deal with these new rights and specifically the question
of whether partners will be eligible to receive enhanced pay and
leave rights, if they elect to take the leave. Given that this
group will be overwhelmingly men, there is a clear risk that an
employer who decides to pay women during maternity leave but not
men who exercise their right to share maternity leave could face an
allegation of sex discrimination. Interestingly, the same risk
exists in the UK, yet there is no settled position there, with many
employers holding off paying enhancing maternity pay to partners,
until there is a definitive answer from the Tribunals.
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guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
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