Equality laws ‘holding women back’

Nicola BrewerA major extension of maternity leave in Britain has drawn criticism from an unexpected quarter -- the female head of the UK’s Equalities and Human Rights Commission. Commenting on the government’s promise to extend paid maternity leave from the present nine months to a full year by the end of its current term, Nicola Brewer said generous maternity benefits were making employers think twice before offering women a job or promotion. They entrenched the idea that only mothers cared for children and failed to hasten a revolution where both parents were equally responsible for caring for their family. British fathers are entitled to only two weeks of leave, the lowest in Europe.

Business leaders have criticised the new maternity laws, saying that it is difficult to plan the workforce if parents go part-time. Ms Brewer said plans to extend the right to request flexible working hours until children were 16 could hamper women’s employment prospects further. Of the one million people who have made use of flexible hours so far, the overwhelming majority are women. 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, but Ms Brewer said there should be paternity leave as of right, not as something women have to share with the father. She suggested the government was too anxious to justify “family friendly” policy to the business community, when it could be justified on wider social grounds.

Officials at the equality commission say that they are studying research from Sweden that has found that fathers who take up to two years off work after the birth of a child are 30 per cent less likely to get divorced. ~ Times Online, July 14

* “Some employers may not be employing ‘women of a certain age’ any more, but increasingly it is women who are deciding they don't want to work flat out once they have had children. They are redefining themselves as mothers who work rather than career women who happen to have children.” ~ Read more at Times Online 



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