Since New Labour came to power in May 1997 some developments in employments rights have aimed to promote the balancing between work and family life: “Families are the core of our society, but they are under pressure. Women and men struggle with choices over work and family responsibilities….The government is pledged to support families and children... We want to encourage more family-friendly employment.” These so-called “family- friendly” policies include new statutory rights: parental leave for fathers after a child's birth, parental leave for both parents, time-off for dependants in case of emergencies, adoption leave and a right to request flexible working. These changes in employment laws have occurred gradually: first the Employment Rights Act (1999) and the Maternity and Parental, etc Regulations (1999) have simplified the former legislation about maternity leave and have given rights to fathers. Then there have been some extensions with the Employment Act (2002) with longer periods of paid maternity leave, the introduction of paid paternity leave and a right to request for flexible work.
[...] In Scandinavian countries much wider support for families is offered; women can really develop both a career and a personal life and fathers are strongly encouraged to take part in familial life. It is not enough to enforce new regulations, mentalities have to change too and this takes time. A recent research published by the lobby group Working Families has shown that 60 per cent of fathers who had asked for flexible working had been allowed to do so. But most of working fathers hesitate before asking because they know that they can be deprived from top management functions or even be redundant. [...]
[...] However these co-called “family-friendly” policies which are aimed to help parents better balance work and family have been criticised, in particular by trade unions. These policies have been reported to be self- defeating for firms; instead of promoting female employment they can increase discrimination towards woman in the workplace. The family is not necessarily winner. what extent can these policies be considered as family-friendly practices? What are the impacts on employees, family life and employers? At first sight these new statutory rights introduced by successive regulations look family-friendly. [...]
[...] So firms can find an advantage by implementing such practices. Thus the example of HSBC‘s policy is demonstrative of this: it was designated as the Family Friendly Employer of the year 2005.The firm shows the implementation of family friendly policies over a number of years and is an exemplar when it comes to childcare support for working parents. All employees at HSBC have the right to request flexible working arrangements. Moreover the firm has the set up a wide network of nursery. [...]
[...] It enables parents with a child under 6 or a disabled child under 18 to make a request for flexible working; he/she can request changes to the hours, the times and the place he/she is required to work. Employers have to consider such a request seriously and only reject them for good business reasons. Flexible workers are protected by the SDA 1975. Among all the developments in human rights the right to request flexible working appears to be the most family-friendly: employees have indeed a higher flexibility to balance their work and their personal commitments; they are less stressed. [...]
[...] Conclusion The recent developments in individual rights have tried to take into account the desire of individuals to balance better their work and their family duties. Women, in particular, want to have both a career and children, which can really represent a challenge nowadays. These so-called family-friendly policies constitute considerable advance in the issue of the equality between men and women. They acknowledge the right to fathers to spend time with their children and their very important role in children's upbringing too. [...]
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