SMALL firms in Huntingdonshire have called on the Government to give more certainty to small businesses by reforming maternity and paternity leave.

SMALL firms in Huntingdonshire have called on the Government to give more certainty to small businesses by reforming maternity and paternity leave.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) believes that changing the current system would help small businesses finding it difficult to forecast when their employees should return to work. It recommends that a ‘flexible leave’ system should be introduced and advocates that parental leave should be tailored to suit individual families.

Women are currently able to take 52 weeks’ leave, of which 39 weeks are paid on statutory maternity pay. This compares with the two weeks’ paid paternity leave available to fathers. More than one-third of lower-paid workers tend to go back to work within six months, compared to 11 per cent of those on higher pay.

FSB Huntingdonshire chairman Malcolm Lyons said: “Laws surrounding maternity and paternity leave are complex and confusing to administer and can act as a barrier to small firms taking on new staff simply because they do not understand the burdensome system.

“Family leave should be tailored to suit each individual – a one-size-fits-all approach fails to adapt to those needs. Government must reform the way statutory pay is distributed to people taking maternity or paternity leave. Parents should be able to choose not only how long they take leave but how and when they receive the pay they are entitled to.”