Restaurateurs are advised to pay attention to the latest amendments to the Work and Families Act
With the introduction of the new Work and Families Act at the beginning of April, restaurateurs need to ensure they're up to speed with the changes or risk finding themselves embroiled in an employment tribunal.
Under the act, mothers of children born or adopted after April 2007 will now be entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay for 39 weeks, an increase of 13 weeks from the previous 26 weeks. Furthermore, the minimum length of service has been abolished, which means that the rules apply to any full-time employees, no matter how long they have been with the company.
Changes to the flexibility of working hours have been extended, so where only the parents of young and disabled children could ask for flexibility before, now carers of adults can ask for flexibility in their working hours too.
Of course, employers can refuse but they must be sure to provide valid reasons in order to ensure they don't leave themselves open to being taken to court.
The Forum of Private Business (FPB) said it was concerned about the financial impact, particularly on smaller businesses. FPB Campaigns Manager Victoria Carson said, "Big businesses can quite easily replace members of the workforce; however, this is not the case for small firms with highly skilled, specialised or experienced workers.
As a consequence, the responsibilities of missing employees have to be passed on to other staff, reducing productivity and profitability."
Despite this, the effects can be minimised by planning ahead, said an FPB spokesperson, who offered restaurateurs the following advice:
- Think about how the changes could affect your day-to-day business and work out how you would cope before you actually have to.
- Make sure you can recruit cover for any employees on maternity leave.
- Ensure that you can recruit the best person you can for a short-term job and make it clear that should further opportunities arise, such as the job becoming available for longer or as part of a job-share, you will consider them.
- Be tempted to discriminate against employees of a certain age or gender.
- Worry if you have genuine reasons why full-time staff can't be offered flexible working hours, just be sure that you can explain them.