Friday, March 14, 2008

It's a lifestyle choice

Am getting rather enraged listening to the debate on Radio 2 about women and maternity leave. There was a woman on who was surprised when she applied for jobs to find out they didn't want to employ her because she was pregnant. Well, of course they don't. If I needed to employ someone I would hire a guy, as cute as possible, because he's not going to get pregnant and leave me up shit creek without a paddle. They cancelled her interview, which she thought was appalling, but they were just saving both their time as they knew they weren't going to give her a job.

Why would someone, particularly in a small business, hire someone who is then going to stop work for at least a few months? They get trained up then they leave and the employer is stuck in the same place they were, except they now have the bother of maternity leave and pay. Their colleagues then also have to take on extra work with no more pay whilst someone gets paid for fulfilling their lifestyle choice. It's not discrimination, it's sensible business. Hell, if she's that great she won't find it hard to get a job once she's had children and can go back to the world of commerce.

As a woman who doesn't want to have a child, these women who take the piss with their maternity leave and such behaviour tar us all with their brush. An employer doesn't know that I don't want kids and am not going to leave them in the lurch after only a few months, so for that reason they may not employ me, or another young woman. The way I understand it, women can go on mat leave for up to two years and then can inform their employers that they aren't going to come back to work. How is that regulation for good business practice?

Because having kids isn't a right, which is why I don't think people should get handouts from the state for having children. If you want a child then that privilege comes with the responsibility and in my opinion that responsibility is paying for it. These days, everyone chips in with paying for children in the form of taxes for child benefit, council houses for single mothers, state schools, the free at the point of use NHS services and all those transport initiatives other people got but I never did. Hell, my parents had to pay private school fees because the school in my area were so bad.

With this government it's harder and harder for people to be able to fund themselves I know, because the tax burden has risen so much and the state wants you to be reliant on them. But I don't understand how these women can not see the point of view of the employer.

I don't pretend to have the answers but I see this legislation as incredibly damaging to women wanting to get employment. The contract between an employer and an employee should be just that: between them. Politicians, most of whom have never had a real job in their lives (don't forget where this legislation arises from!)should be the last person sticking their honks into this business.

Harsh? Maybe. But it really does annoy me.


dizzy said...

According to the Government you only get 52 weeks. 26 weeks with an extra 26 weeks if certain conditions are met. You don't get paid for all of it, and an employer only has to pay SMP which is about £80 a week if they want. Am not saying you;re wrong in your point, just pointing out that it's not quite so cushy a deal as it sounds.

Also, in the case of the woman above that wasn't interviewed. Whilst I agree entirely with your point, she probably wouldn't have been entitled to any pay from the company anyway, because you only get MSP if you've worked in the same place for 26 weeks prior to the 15th week before the sprog is born.

That would of course, as you rightly say, mean the employer would still be in a recuritment stage and having to shell out for that. It is true that a woman can go on maternity leave and then decide to just not go back and give them bugger all notice of it. Which is absurd.

Mark Wadsworth said...

Totally agreed. Very large organisations like Tesco or British Airways can easily cope with an employee being away for a few months or years - but there's no need to legislate for this as presumably Tesco or BA are happy to re-employ a returning mother who has a previous good record - but small employers can't.

So all in all, it makes it more difficult for e.g. you to find a job. Or for Mrs W, for that matter; we have two young kids and potential employers think to themselves "She might have another one soon". Which we won't. But they can't know that for sure, can they?

Anonymous said...

I think you'll find, if you do your research, that employers claim back SMP from the Gov, so they're not out of pocket; and yes, you have to have been employed for a certain period of time before you are entitled to extended maternity leave.

What a shame that you don't want to employ the best person for the job on the basis that they're a women who may or may not become pregnant at some time in the future.

Anonymous said...

"Because having kids isn't a right.."

Urm...yes it is, at least in terms if you 'can' you 'may'. That statement opens up a whole load of debates that I sincerely hope someone more eloquent than me can start! ;-)

Anonymous said...

"Because having kids isn't a right.."

Urm...yes it is, at least in terms if you 'can' you 'may'. That statement opens up a whole load of debates that I sincerely hope someone more eloquent than me can start! ;-)

Bookartist said...

Dear, dear, what would you do with me? Pregnant at the start of my last job, but my husband is the stay-at-home parent and has been for the past five years. Would you have given me the chance to explain this during our interview, or would you just have shown me the door?

El Draque said...

When people choose not to have children - they still expect to get pensions at some point. Which will be paid for by the children of those who choose to have them. Ditto the nurses who care for the childless in their old age - they are the children of today. As the old joke goes - "Why care about the future? What has the future ever done for me?" Pensions and health care, for starters.

Edland said...

they're not out of pocket

Umm, except for having to deal with the fact that their employee isn't there for a year! Fine for some jobs, not so fine for those ones which take years to train for.

Anonymous said...

Is this not part of the general rule that you must not obstruct the whim or fancy of any woman for any reason.
Oh and compensation is bound to come into it as well.

Mark Wadsworth said...

Bookartist, that's the whole point. If we didn't have this stupid legislation, an employer would be far less bothered if you are pregnant. if you do indeed come back to work after you've had your baby, well great.

Anonymous said...

Bookartist: I have not taken advice on how safe it would be to ask you that question. As a small employer I am aware that some questions in interviews can lead to significant legal problems, however I do not have a legal department to tell me what they are !

I posted the comment below on Dr Crippen's Blog which links here.

I am a director of a small software development company.
My company started as 2 directors doing everthing, but has grown to the point where we employ 3 programmers. One of the directors is now full time meeting clients and specifying projects. The second director is now a part time coder, part time director, and part time meeting clients.

We have decided that we need to employ a fourth programmer, as we are now saturated, and need to free the second director from programming. We know from experience that it takes 4-6 months for a new programmer to become productive as they learn our systems, ways of working etc.

I know that we would feel very nervous about employing a woman who may go on maternity leave for 6 months. That would reduce our development capacity by 25%. We could not just replace her on a temporary basis because of the time taken for a new programmer to become productive. We could not replace her on a permanent basis as we are required to let her return from maternity leave to her old job. We do not currently generate enough revenue to hire 5 programmers.

If we hire a young woman we know we may need to cover 25% of development capacity with long hours and hard work for up to 6 months. If we hire a young man this is far less likely.

Anonymous said...

Ha ha ha, does this woman have a massive chip on her shoulder or what?
Poor love, it must be awful for you being "tarred with the same brush" as us breeders.

Clare Wilson

Anonymous said...

Actually, employers can only claim SMP back if the amount of SMP paid in a particular period is more than the amount they pay in National Insurance. So even if a small business can claim back some or all the SMP, they still have to pay it out first and then wait for HMRC to get its act together to make the repayment.

But I still don't understand why some people think parenthood is a RIGHT rather than a choice. You can say no to sex, choose to use contraception, even 'choose' to have the pregnancy terminated (if you think having the child is going to be detrimental to your physical or mental health - clever get out clause there), but if your biology means that choice is not there for you, it somehow becomes your right to get pregnant by artificial means without any consideration about how you intend to provide for your offspring. When there are almost 7 billion people living on this planet, how can it be some kind of inviolable RIGHT to give birth to yet another mewling consumer regardless of your or your planet's ability to provide for it?

Vicola said...

As someone who has made the same 'lifestyle choice' as you and isn't having kids I completely agree.
By the way 'anonymous' who wrote "I think you'll find, if you do your research, that employers claim back SMP from the Gov, so they're not out of pocket; and yes, you have to have been employed for a certain period of time before you are entitled to extended maternity leave" - I can assure you, having run my parent's small business for 2 years, that once you have recruited someone to cover the job, trained them and all the other associated costs you very definately ARE out of pocket when someone goes on maternity leave. It also disrupts the team. If maternity leave didn't cause so much as a ripple then why would companies be reluctant to hire a pregant woman or one they thought was likely to become pregnant?

Anonymous said...


An Employer is not allowed to ask you questions like that, it is "discriminatory".

Trixy said...

Clare, no chip on shoulder. I know some people who have children find it hard to believe there are women out there who don't want them, and how could we not find your mewling brat cute and charming instead of dribbling and irritating, but there it is!