Smaller companies could be hit hardest by Government proposals to extend paternity leave by up to 26 weeks, employment and HR consultancy Consult GEE, has warned.
The consultation paper, published this month, sets out proposals to offer fathers the opportunity to choose to take up to 28 weeks' paternity leave to care for children under the age of one.
This additional leave can only be taken if the mother has chosen to return to work, and both parents will not be entitled to take leave at the same time.
Stuart Chamberlain, employment law expert at Consult GEE, said: "One of the big problems with maternity leave is the disruption caused by having to find and train a temporary replacement for an experienced member of staff. Extending paternity leave is going to increase dramatically the frequency of such costly events.
"The hidden cost of extending paternity leave in lost productivity could be far higher than the direct costs and of course this burden will sit heaviest on the companies with the least employees."
These proposals come only a month after the Government, as part of the Work and Families Bill, decided to remove the rules which exempt an employer, who has five or fewer employees, from a case of automatic unfair dismissal where they do not hold open a post for an employee returning from maternity or adoption leave.
"The Government keeps promising that it will start to free businesses from over-regulation but, in reality, we keep seeing these extra levels of red tape ," Mr Chamberlain said. "For this system to work properly and without abuse it is going to involve a lot of extra form filling."