HC Deb 27 November 2003 vol 415 cc445-7W
Mr. Jim Cunningham

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) what(a) training and (b) support is provided to managers to help them to institute family-friendly employment procedures; [141886]

(2)what information and support is available for employers regarding flexible working arrangements for employees; [141887]

(3)what plans the Government have to provide specialist guidance for small and medium enterprises, with particular reference to effective family-friendly working practices among small firms. [141888]

Mr. Sutcliffe [holding answer 8 December 2003]

An extensive package of support and guidance to help businesses implement and benefit from the laws for working parents has accompanied their introduction in April this year.

This includes:

  • Detailed guidance incorporating standard letter templates, summary flowcharts and 'how to' hints and tips.
  • Interactive web-based guidance via the TIGER website (www.tiger.gov.uk)
  • A case studies booklet "Flexible Working—The Business Case: 50 Success Stories" giving real examples of how businesses have introduced flexible working practices and how they have benefited. Half of those featured are small businesses.
  • Specific information concerning the payment of statutory maternity, paternity and adoption pay for employers is available on the Inland Revenue website (www.inlandrevenue. gov.uk/employers/during.htm). In addition, information on the new laws was sent to all employers registered with the Inland Revenue (1.5—1.7 million copies) in August 2002.
  • An awareness raising campaign incorporating national newspaper and online adverts aimed specifically at business. Further adverts are planned early next year in the national press 446W and specialist business publications. The DTI also intends to mail in excess of 100,000 SMEs to further raise awareness and facilitate uptake and signpost them to further information.
  • A series of six seminars for Business Link advisers on family-friendly policies run by the DTI in the spring of 2003. A Business Link factsheet on flexible working, tailored specifically for SMEs, is also available.
  • A number of projects in partnership with external stakeholders. For example DTI supported a joint partnership project by the Federation of Small Business (FSB), British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) and the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. An awareness raising poster was circulated to 155,000 FSB members and 1,300 BCC branches, and a collection of case studies promoting the business case for flexible working in smaller businesses and giving examples of good practice was developed. (Getting it Right: Improving work-life balance in your business.)
  • Free confidential advice to employers via the Acas helpline service (08457 474747), which is signposted on guidance and advertising.
  • A programme of seminars, reaching almost 10,500 employers throughout the UK, run by Acas during the first quarter of 2003. They continue to run seminars on all issues relating to working parents as part of their core seminar programme.
  • The Government's work-life balance campaign, which actively promotes family-friendly working practices across the workplace. Part of the non-legislative agenda for employment relations policy, the campaign focuses on researching and disseminating best practice to industry and business.
All guidance material is accessible through the DTI website: www.dti.gov.uk/workingparents.

Mr. Jim Cunningham

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps the Government are taking to promote the take-up of family friendly options at work by men.[142659]

Mr. Sutcliffe [holding answer 8 December 2003]

In April this year, the Government introduced new laws for working parents which cover fathers as well as mothers, including the right for fathers of children aged under six or disabled children under 18 to request flexible working and the right to two weeks paid paternity leave. These new rights together with the existing rights to parental leave and time off for dependants recognise that men increasingly want to play a greater role in the family and provides them with more choices for doing so.

To facilitate take-up, the Government are running an on-going awareness raising campaign which includes national newspaper adverts targeted specifically at fathers. In addition posters have been circulated to CAB's GP's surgeries and libraries. We are working in partnership with stakeholders to raise awareness. We provided support to the charity, Fathers Direct for their pilot magazine aimed at new fathers—'Dad', launched in five different maternity units in April 2003 and distributed to all new fathers coming into contact with those units.

The Government's Work-Life balance campaign also encourages employers to adopt best practice and provide family-friendly policies right across the work force.

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