Flexibility is all about getting women back into the workforce

I read Michael Millar’s‘Bye Bye Baby’ article (Off Message, Personnel Today, 6 November) with interest during the 2am feed, and I think that the proposal by Fathers Direct, Michael’s own ideas and the lobby group Kidding Aside (reported in ‘Has family-friendly law gone too far?’, Personnel Today, 23 October) are all examples of equality gone mad.

Are we in danger of forgetting the real reasons behind the maternity legislation?

Somewhere in all this, there is a baby who needs taking care of. Rather than the legislation allocating roles, perhaps the gender of who is eligible for maternity and paternity should be removed, the decision as to the main carer left to the couple, and the benefits allocated accordingly? Even doing this, it is highly probable that the main carer will be the mother, from both a financial and emotional welfare point of view.

So what about the reality of extended maternity legislation? I would liken it to taking your first parachute jump. The initial six weeks are like being in the plane: it’s OK, but you know something nasty is coming. The jump is your free fall from 90% salary to statutory maternity pay. You imagine what it will be like, but nothing prepares you for the experience. In the last 13 weeks you pull the cord and your parachute doesn’t open.

Encouraging women back into the workplace is a key issue, but while organisations say they are valued workers, their actions are incongruent with this.

To encourage mothers to return, organisations should consider enhancing maternity provision to demonstrate this value and create greater loyalty. Operating flexible working as a standard right rather than something women only have the right to ask for would help.

Helen Sljapic
HR business partner

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