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Government ‘considering maternity leave exemptions for small firms’

 

Small businesses could benefit from changes to the maternity and paternity rules as part of a major ‘deregulation drive’ by the Government, according to recent reports.

 

There is growing speculation that the Chancellor, George Osborne, will address concerns over excessive bureaucracy in a new ‘growth strategy’ to be unveiled in next week’s Budget.

 

It is thought that the plans may include granting exemptions to firms employing 10 staff or fewer, including the right for these employers to negotiate maternity and paternity leave ‘deals’ directly with their workers.

 

If implemented, the move could ease the regulatory burden for thousands of small firms across the UK.

 

Commenting, Andrew Cave, chief spokesperson for the Federation of Small Businesses, said: ‘We have called for a moratorium on all planned or new regulations. We are also looking for a more common-sense approach to maternity and paternity leave. It would be better for it to be negotiated between employee and employer.’

 

However Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor, said: ‘If this is George Osborne’s growth strategy then he’s in greater denial about the state of the economy than I feared.

 

‘The Government’s plans will cost jobs if firms with 11 or 12 people decide to downsize to take advantage, and it will make it harder for mums and dads to go out to work.’

 

From April 2011 new fathers will gain the right to take up to 26 weeks’ additional paternity leave if the mother opts to return to work early.

 

All mothers would still be guaranteed the first six weeks off after birth, paid at 90% of their pay, while fathers would retain their existing two weeks’ paternity leave.