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Equality Bill: Is Harman mad?

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More paid maternity leave – really? Why would the government increase paid maternity leave during a recession? To help working mothers after the birth of a child? To enable mothers to spend more time with their growing children? Or just to look good for next year’s general election?

The current allowance is 39 weeks – essentially nine months of paid maternity leave. In addition, many women like to build up their holiday allowance prior to going on maternity leave, which means they’re entitled to nearly 52 weeks of paid leave. Now the government wants to give them even more time off.

Even if women are offered this extended amount of paid maternity leave, how many will actually take it? Many women don’t take their full entitlement and would question the point of the proposed increase. Whatever Miss Harman’s intentions, the key question here is who should pick up the tab?

The cost for business owners is much greater than the basic salary cost. It is the cost of recruitment, training, management time and the cost of not being able to plan or grow a position for nearly year that needs to be included here.

It is not logical for the government to burden businesses – and especially small businesses – with such costs during a recession. If the government wants to offer more paid maternity leave, it should pay for it – and pay for it over the basic costs. If it’s not prepared to pay these actual costs, the alternative is to exempt small business from any such increase.

From a social and equality point of view, extending paid maternity leave from 39 weeks to 59 weeks might be a good idea. For businesses struggling with the recession, especially for small businesses, it is a potentially disastrous move to woo the electorate in 2010.

Related articles:Equality Bill: A waste of time?Gender quotas in business: Brilliant or bonkers?

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