IoD report shows mothers find it harder to work

Granting
women extra employment rights is making it more difficult for them to find
work, according to a group of businesswomen.

The
group, led by the Institute of Directors, said giving special treatment to
women with young children could cause resentment among other workers.

“Maternity
rights, along with the risk of being taken to an employment tribunal under the
Sex Discrimination legislation, can damage women’s employability,” the IoD
said. “According to IoD survey evidence this has happened already and is likely
to get worse.”

The
group said current maternity regulations are difficult to manage. Employers
have to keep a woman’s job open when she is on maternity leave, but there is no
obligation for her to return.

Ruth
Lea, head of policy at the IoD, said: "We all accept that employees,
especially women with children, need a work-life balance and that employers
should be encouraged to provide voluntary, flexible arrangements. But there are
limitations to what employers can do.

"There
is already evidence that women’s employment rights, particularly maternity rights,
are damaging women’s employability.

"The
more those rights are increased, the worse this is likely to get."

Proposed
changes to the maternity regulations are to be introduced in 2003. Under the
proposals a woman will need to work for only six months (currently a year) in
order to be entitled to "extended" maternity leave of up to a year
(currently up to 40 weeks).

But
unions say the group is encouraging sexism in the workplace, and said new
employment rights have helped more women find jobs.

TUC
equality policy officer Rebecca Gill said the IoD is wrong: “By attacking
Britain’s sex discrimination laws and employment rights the IoD is effectively
giving the green light to sexism.

“All
the IoD can tell us is about the mindset of bad employers.”

By Quentin Reade

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