Pimlico Plumbers CEO Charlie Mullins: Clegg's Parental Leave Plans Will Massacre Small Businesses

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By Charlie Mullins | December 4, 2013 1:41 AM EST

"I honestly don’t believe this move has been properly thought out" (Pimlico Plumbers)

When Nick Clegg's new parental law was announced, I just couldn't believe what I was hearing - and I'm sure small business owners across the UK shared my reaction.

He's attempting to position himself as the "modern" man with claims that our workplace laws are "Edwardian" and appearing to champion the rights of women.

However, I honestly don't believe this move has been properly thought out.

Clegg's law brings yet another blow to Britain's small businesses that have driven this country through the recession against all odds and have been championed by government and consumers alike.

What a way to thank them for rallying around to create economic growth, wrap them in a thicket of red tape.

By the stroke of a pen the coalition has massacred small businesses with a universe of bureaucracy that will cause as much turbulence in its administration as in its practice.

I'm in no way against equality but I am not happy that under these new laws twice as many workers as before can now come and go as they please, regardless of the impact to business.

You might roll your eyes and think "Charlie's the CEO of a plumbing company that employs majority male staff, of course he would say that", but you couldn't be more wrong.

Although most of our plumbers are male, our office is made up of majority female staff.

In fact, being a family business, we have several couples who work together on our workforce as well.

If everyone at Pimlico Plumbers took advantage of the shared parental leave of up to 50 weeks and several staff took this leave at the same time, how could we be expected to function?

Okay, so I'm not going to go bust by this, but the UK is made up of thousands of small businesses for whom this may well be a death sentence.

The problem with shared leave is that it will complicate the cover process for smaller businesses.

"Even if a new dad doesn’t want or need to take several weeks off work, if Bob on the other side of the office has taken advantage, chances are he will too" (Pimlico Plumbers)

Operational Nightmare

With maternity leave employers know where they stand and can plan for that person's absence, hiring someone to fill the role on a six month contract.

This will become a lot harder when that person is on leave for just two or three months and could leave lots of small businesses stranded.

On top of this the new mum or dad can then leave again, constantly splitting the shared leave how they see fit until they've used their twelve months up.

Being a dad myself, I would have jumped at the chance to stay at home and watch my baby grow through that precious first year, however I am not convinced this system has been properly thought through.

I believe it is going to be a complete administrative and operational nightmare because after the mother's recovery period from birth is over, she and her partner can split their leave equally.

In addition, either one will be entitled to 90% of their usual pay until six weeks after the birth, followed by a 33 week period of statutory pay, which at present is £136.78 ($224.70, €165.37) per week in the UK.

The remainder of the year is unpaid.

Also, under the rules, eight weeks' notice will be needed for shared paternity leave.

The leave doesn't need to be equally split down the middle. Under the new law it could potentially be an "on again off again" affair of disastrous proportions.

As a small, family business, we know that employee satisfaction is key to the success of the business and it is great to see that fathers' rights are at the heart of news agenda.

We usually give new dads time off to be with their new families - my HR manager took a few weeks to bond with his baby and support his wife and we always encourage this.

But when these things become law, in people's minds they become a "right".

Even if a new dad doesn't want or need to take several weeks off work, if Bob on the other side of the office has taken advantage, chances are he will too.

I'm behind David Cameron's project of renegotiating our relationship with the EU, with special regards to all the unnecessary red tape and bureaucracy from Brussels that is often so detrimental to small businesses in the UK.

But how can Britain appear serious about reigning in the economically illiterate in Brussels when we can't even control our own?

Charlie Mullins is the chief executive of Pimlico Plumbers, London's largest independent plumbing company.

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