Papa don’t preach

Posted on 25 Jan 2011 by The Manufacturer

The Government’s new paternity plans could actually be good for business, says Kirsty McHugh of Hyco Manufacturing.

There’s been a lot of scaremongering about the predicted cost to business of the proposed changes to paternity and maternity leave, which will enable new mums and dads to share the year-long maternity entitlement. But, as an employer, I think the changes could actually be beneficial to business and to create a more engaged, loyal and productive workforce — who are less stressed because they have been able to achieve a better work-life balance.

At Hyco we want to treat our staff well, to value them and help them to be happier in their working lives. We have some mums who work flexible hours for us, and recently gave a new dad on our staff two weeks paternity leave on full pay. Both my husband Mike — Hyco’s managing director — and myself work flexibly to fit in with the demands of our two small children, so we know all too well the constant juggling act that most parents have to perform.

In our sector in particular, I think it’s important to show that manufacturing has left its dark satanic mills image far behind, and has moved into a new era of cutting edge design, innovation and exemplary employment practices. Sadly, too few young people are considering manufacturing or engineering as a career choice once they have completed their education, and it’s up to us and similar organisations to attract new talent into the industry — and, of course, to retain them.

Creating modern, flexible job opportunities that enable people to balance their life outside work with their job means a win-win situation for employers and employees alike. Employers, and especially those in the manufacturing sector, should be embracing this new, more holistic way of working rather than trying to fight against progress.

The Fatherhood Institute has looked into the European template for extended paternity leave and found that in Sweden, where fathers’ uptake of parental leave is significant, there has been no adverse impact on business as dads increasingly take more of the parenting leave available to them. In fact, it has been found that national productivity benefits, and for every month’s leave that a man takes, his partner’s earning goes up by 7%.

There may be a few administrative hiccups for employers to sort out with cover for parenting leave, but overall the new proposals for shared maternity leave are a good way forward for both businesses and their employees.