This week’s letters

‘Equality’ should mean exactly that

I was completely unsurprised by the views expressed (Letters, 3 June) from
Heather Falconer attacking Stephen Overell’s ‘Off message’ (13 May) on working

Having read Mr Overell’s piece, I thought his message was fairly
straightforward; that working women who choose to leave and have children are
unfairly subsidised by their colleagues and cause serious problems for
employers that need to be addressed.

Perhaps Ms Falconer is right and the EOC should be apologising for its
enforcement of the Sex Discrimination Act over the last 30 years. After all,
can anyone tell me any piece of legislation that advantages men over women, let
alone such a project the EOC has supported in the last 30 years? Mothers have
maternity rights, but fathers have nowhere near the same level of entitlement.
Yet we see no challenge from the EOC.

The Sex Discrimination Act was introduced to combat the perceived
discrimination against women, and the new part-time workers’ rights apply in a
sector that is predominantly female. Yet, the Bentley & Rutherford ruling,
which gave employment rights to over-65s – a predominantly male sector – is
being challenged by the DTI and, once again, the ‘impartial’ EOC is remarkably
silent on the matter.

The notion that maternity rights are an employment matter beggars belief.
The current system is discriminatory, disadvantages both men and
non-pregnant/childless women, places enormous burdens on employers (and fellow
employees) and maintains artificially high levels of unemployment.

In terms of competitiveness, morale and skills wastage, the current
maternity rights regimen is absolute lunacy. We must remember that the feminist
agenda which drove maternity rights forward has made gender a political issue
and follows the mantra: ‘Make the personal political’.

Ms Falconer is correct in that some women do have skills, experience,
aptitudes and education that our economy cannot afford to lose.

Yet, we do lose them from the economy for significant amounts of time. And
sometimes they never return. How up-to-date are their skills and aptitudes
after time out of the workplace?

Patricia Hewitt’s recent campaign to attract about 50,000 female science
graduates back into the workforce highlights the drop-out rate.

Ms Falconer’s views, like mine (I admit it!), are less than impartial. Why
is Ms Falconer defending a maternity rights system that is in obvious need of
reform? For the last three and a half decades, we have seen a huge raft of
feminist-motivated legislation and workplace policies that have allowed women
to enter, survive and flourish in the workplace to the disadvantage of their
male colleagues.

There is an entire section on the DTI website called ‘women and equality’,
which advocates strategies for ‘promoting women in the workplace’. Note: there
is no ‘men and equality’ section. Are women not capable of promoting themselves
in the workplace by their ‘education, skills, aptitudes, experience and

I would agree with Ms Falconer that the business case for ‘equality’ is
proven. However, I suspect her definition of ‘equality’ and my own are somewhat
different. A definition that advantages one gender over the other is not

John Spartan
Head of HR, JBMS

Spot the irony…

Was I the only person to see the irony in the irony pointed out by Mr
Kingsley (Letters, 3 June)?

I appreciate that Mr Kingsley is probably not singularly responsible for
this, but he criticises the use of the term ‘human capital’ (which at least
offends everyone equally across a diverse workforce) when writing as a
representative of an organisation called Manpower.

Such a name could be viewed by half the population as ‘degrading’…

Jane Bralsford
Job title and company withheld

Rights for temps will not hurt UK economy

There is no evidence to back up the argument that equal pay and basic rights
for temporary workers would cost jobs and damage the UK’s economic
competitiveness and flexibility (Editorial comment, 3 June). Unfortunately, the
completely unfounded claim scuppered the EU Agency Workers Directive.

It is ludicrous to suggest the UK owes its current economic position to a
relatively small number of low paid and unprotected agency workers. Temp work
has fallen in the UK, while employment has grown and most temps are on fixed-term
contracts with equal pay and rights to permanent staff. Employers themselves
say they use temps in busy periods and to cover absence, not to cut costs.

It is unfair and does not make good business sense to treat agency workers
differently to other temporary staff. Any qualifying period attached to the
directive would simply enable the cowboy agencies to continue to undercut those
who currently offer decent pay and protection.

Providing better protection will make agency working more attractive to a
wider group of workers, giving employers with high quality, more choice and
greater flexibility.

Brendan Barber
General secretary, TUC

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