Long Maternity Leave may Leave You Without a Job: Plight of Brit Women

by Tanya Thomas on Jul 15 2008 10:08 AM

Working women, who have long been acclaimed for their “balancing act” capabilities in office and home, have to suffer yet another blow. The UK government’s plans for longer maternity leave for employed women are taking a toll on their careers, says a Britain’s new equalities watchdog. Now, employers are simply not hiring them!

British government’s proposals on expansion of maternity leave and parents’ rights is forcing corporates or business organizations to rethink recruiting women of childbearing age.

Ms Nicola Brewer, the chief executive of Britain’s Equalities and Human Rights Commission said that there is a strong argument to rethink family policy.

She said that the commission’s helpline had been contacted by women who had lost their jobs after falling pregnant and blamed the new rights for their situations.

Currently women are entitled to nine months of paid leave, but that will soon extend up to one year.

According to the Times, business leaders are condemning new maternity laws, insisting that it is creating problems in workforce planning.

Earlier this year entrepreneur Sir Alan Sugar claimed many employers are rejecting the CVs of women of childbearing age.

Moreover, these benefits have failed to hasten a social revolution where both parents were equally responsible for caring for their family.

In Britain, fathers are entitled to just two weeks of leave compared with 52 for mothers.

"There has been a sea change on maternity leave and flexible work and we welcome that," The Australian quoted Brewer, as saying.

"But the effect has been to reinforce some traditional patterns. The Work and Families Act has not freed parents and given them real choice.

"It is based on assumptions, and some of the terms reinforce the traditional pattern of women as the caregivers of children.

"The thing I worry about is that the current legislation and regulations have had the unintended consequence of making women a less attractive prospect to employers," she added.

While the latest legislation allows for the last six months of maternity leave to be transferred to the father if the mother goes back to work earlier, Brewer said that provision missed the point.

"The way it is framed means it is up to the women to transfer the leave to the man. It is not his right," she said.

Katherine Rake, director of the Fawcett Society, which campaigns for equality between women and men, said that she shared the commission’s concerns about the effect of legislation on women’s careers.