Telling the truth about SME life today

“I’d rather avoid hiring women”

Legal eagle Sue Evans, a partner at Lester Aldridge, gives us her take on this issue:

"This is a tricky dilemma and, in truth, is probably a factor considered by a number of employers (albeit subconsciously).

"One aspect of the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s proposed changes would be greater equality in the leave available to parents. Currently, women can take up to 52 weeks maternity leave and men only two weeks paternity leave. The EHRC’s proposals mean that women should be paid 90 per cent of their salary for the first 26 weeks of maternity leave. Beyond this, leave could be taken in three blocks of four-month periods – one block for the mother, one block for the father and the third block for either parent. These blocks can be taken any time up until a child’s fifth birthday.

"This will have a big impact on your ability to plan for the future of your business. Only short-term planning may be possible with the looming possibility (for a five-year period) that an employee may opt to take substantial periods of leave.

"The EHRC’s proposals also mean that you won’t just be fretting over hiring women of child-bearing age. Men, too, may take substantial periods of leave. The issue raised in your question is made potentially worse by the EHRC’s proposals.

"There has been a mixed reaction to the proposals among businesses and equality groups. We’ll have to wait and see if the proposals will be implemented in full or whether a more compromised approach will be adopted."

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