Mind the maternity gap: 50,000 women a year don’t get jobs back
Surprisingly enough, it's a misleading headline. The law says that you get your job back after going on maternity leave. It doesn't say you get it back on your own terms.
Up to 50,000 women who take maternity leave each year are unable to return to the jobs they left behind because of discrimination by employers, research seen by The Independent suggests.
Figures analysed by the House of Commons library found that as many as 14 per cent of the 340,000 women who take maternity leave every year find their positions under threat when they try to return.
Some are told that they cannot do their old job part-time and are forced into roles with less responsibility while others are effectively constructively dismissed. Those who do return to the same job sometimes find it harder to get promotion, leading to a growing pay gap between men and women in later life.
An employer pays two wages while a woman is on maternity leave - one to the woman on leave and another to the person taking on her responsibilities while she is gone. It's not wrong to expect you to do your job as before on your return. My job could not be done on part time hours and neither could any of the other jobs in our office.
To expect an employer to cover you with another wage for almost a year, then let you do your job on part time hours just because you have chosen to have a baby is just plain wrong in my opinion.
To offer you a role with less responsibility that can be done on part time hours should be considered a courtesy. Then there's the wage gap.
Of course it's going to be more difficult to gain a promotion if you are a year behind everyone else. You're out of touch and you've missed out on a years experience and training. That needs to be caught up before you can expect to progress. One, two or three children will put you one, two or three years behind your male or childless colleagues in the promotion and pay rise stakes.
With new Government rules obliging women to pay £1,200 to take a maternity discrimination case to employment tribunal, Labour intends to make maternity rights a key issue in the run-up to the next election.
She pledged that Labour would implement a national crackdown on employers who flouted existing employment laws, as well as examining ways to provide cheaper and more flexible childcare.
If Labour plan to make maternity leave even more difficult for employers to provide and make them cater for child care into the package, all they are going to do is make it less desirable to employ women of child bearing age.
Eventually they will be making it law to have quotas of women working in each company. That's the only way they will make women gain promotion as fast and earn as much as their male or childless peers if they are unwilling to ease off on maternity regulation.
Nearly half [in a survey of 1000 women] said that the role they had previously performed had changed since they took maternity leave, with one in 20 accepting a completely different job role within a company. More than a quarter of women had their request for flexible hours refused.
My job role has changed quite a bit in the past year and it's always evolving. Some jobs just cannot be frozen in time for a year while people swan off to have children. As I've said, being offered a different job if you are no longer willing or able to do your old one should be considered a courtesy.
If I requested flexible hours, that request would also be refused, no matter what the reason. My job requires me to be available during the times when the business is open, not as and when I feel like it.
“Businesses and the economy depend on the work women do. Families depend on mums being able to spend time with their newborn. Yet the evidence shows that too often new mothers are let down at an incredibly important time,” she said.
That statement qualifies as doublespeak with the best of them. Businesses depend on the work women do. When women can no longer be depended on to do that work, what happens then?
Families depend on mums being at home. Whose responsibility is it to make those arrangements? Not the employer. The employer / employee contract is for work in exchange for pay. When choosing to have a baby, a family should first decide if the mother (or father) can afford to quit work while they raise that child and then look for new employment when they are ready.
I understand that in the current climate, most of the time, both parents need to work in order to afford a child. That kind of creates a chicken and egg scenario but it isn't one created by employers and it shouldn't be one that has to be fixed by employers. That would just make the situation worse by stifling the economy and the employment market further.
“The scale of discrimination during maternity leave is a hidden disgrace. The new figures show up to 50,000 women don’t have a job to go back to – often because employers think they don’t have to take new mothers as seriously.
“Many find their job changed with no consultation, many miss out on pay rises too. Half of returning mothers say the job they returned to was worse than the one they had before.
“We need national action to deal with maternity discrimination including tackling irresponsible employers who are breaking the law.”
And what about all those women who take full maternity leave and then don't bother going back to work?
Who reimburses the employer for them?