Maternity and equality law changes may go to keep business costs down

Costly new maternity leave and equality law may be scrapped as the government tries to help businesses cope with the recession.

Proposals to enhance maternity leave legislation, award government contracts to firms who publish diversity statistics and increase positive action in recruitment by allowing firms to hire under-represented staff into an organisation may be put on the back burner, according to The Times.

The newspaper reported today that the proposed new laws, championed by women’s minister Harriet Harman, are under threat after business secretary Peter Mandelson and chancellor Alistair Darling called for a moratorium on any plans that would add extra costs to business during the economic downturn.

Mandelson’s attempt to axe costly laws comes after a meeting of the Economic Development ministerial committee last week. In a confidential memo, according to The Times, ministers have been asked to “advise on a moratorium on legislation and legislative announcements made but not yet implemented that will entail additional costs for businesses”.

The news has divided cabinet ministers, particularly those who called for increased powers to improve equality in workplaces in the first place, such as Harman.

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