Productive approach to maternity is vital

 It’s hardly a new issue for employers – but despite its prevalence, many managers still seem flummoxed by pregnancy.

The business case for providing decent maternity leave and support, and flexible working for new parents has been repeated ad nauseam. Retaining women workers means retaining talent, ensuring diversity and ultimately benefits the company. Yet it seems confusion still reins.

Julie Mellor, chair of the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC), admits the current system of managing pregnant workers lends itself to increased uncertainty and unnecessary business costs. She wants a system where employers can contact women while they are still on maternity leave to discuss their return-to-work plans.

At last, some common sense and maturity. Of course employers should be able to talk to staff about their return to work – and this doesn’t mean bosses badgering staff on maternity leave to return.

As Mellor told the CBI conference last week, opening dialogue will benefit women as well as employers. Yet according to exclusive research conducted by Personnel Today and the EOC, organisations are still struggling to manage pregnant staff.

The answer, you told us, is simplified legislation and a single code of practice for employers.

More than 95 per cent of almost 1,500 HR professionals said that creating one piece of legislation to cover all aspects of pregnancy and maternity law would be helpful.

Hopefully, the Government will listen.

The Personnel Today/EOC research is part of the EOC’s investigation ‘Pregnant and Productive’, which will be presented to the DTI next year.

A simplified code of practice, along with a touch more maturity about the issue and more awareness of the need to retain and engage pregnant staff and those with young children, will help make the UK’s workplaces better for women and ultimately more productive.



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