Should HR departments ask women about their plans to start a family?

(223 Posts)
Vickimumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 06-Mar-13 16:39:06

Sheryl Sandbery COO of Facebook has recently said, “Employers should be allowed to ask women about plans for children … Every HR department tells you not to do that but we need to have a much more open conversation.” This has got the Family Friendly team at Mumsnet wondering what you think. Would it make for easier career planning for women and a more open discussion between women at work and employers or would it be a massive backwards step? Have you ever wanted to talk to a potential employer about your long term plans or ask about their maternity package? Have you ever been asked and felt that your answer has had a negative impact on your employability? We'd love to know.

Wishiwasanheiress Fri 08-Mar-13 16:05:09

Would they be able to sue me for changing my mind? Brain boggles!!!

Wishiwasanheiress Fri 08-Mar-13 16:07:30

Has anyone at mnhq asked at interview about maternity or family policies?

If not why not? I'm guessing no one would think it appropriate on either side of gender/employment status.

MrsKwazii Fri 08-Mar-13 16:08:02

No, they shouldn't for all of the reasons people have already given. And in an age where many women can have the better paid/prospects job in a couple, if it were a question to be asked, then it should be asked of men as well as it may well be that they'll be asking for flexible working and parental leave as well. If businesses employ people childbearing age then some will inevitably have children, being more upfront about what a company offers and expects would be more honest than asking about family plans - plans which can often turn out to be entirely different in reality.

Are they also going to ask employees if they intend to develop chronic illnesses or any other health problems too?

Wishiwasanheiress Fri 08-Mar-13 16:12:39

Final point, I notice the fallacy that hr is for employees. That's false. That is simply marketing fashion which altered in last 20yrs. Hr is in fact the 'human' face of the legal department and are solely there to protect the firm from legal issue. Hr was born to mop up petty disputes before they became big legal issues. As employment has become more complicated hr altered.

Never believe an hr that professes to be on your side. They are not.

What percentage of pregnancies are planned? Maybe 50%?
And how many plan to have a family imminently and have problems?

Leaving aside the blatant sexism, the answer to the question tells the interviewer NOTHING, so there's no point asking it.

thereonthestair Fri 08-Mar-13 16:18:54

I love the idea hr is the human face of legal. What does that make us employment lawyers?

LindaMcCartneySausage Fri 08-Mar-13 16:21:30

No, they shouldn't. Do they ask male colleagues about their plans for a family? Do they want details of my cycle and sex life to help them plan?

I doubt there would be any upside to women in all this proposed honesty. If it's about career planning, and call me Mrs Sceptical, but I doubt they would be saying; "Oh, so you're planning two children. Ok then, we think you're really good at your job - how about we promote you now before you have them?".

More like "Oh, so you're planning 2 children. Ok then, we'd better not put you on this new interesting project which would be ideal for your talents or, heaven forfend, promote you, because you'll only piss off for a year, then another year and we'll have to cover you and cost us £££ in maternity pay"

Sunnywithshowers Fri 08-Mar-13 16:28:08

Absolutely not. It's hugely discriminatory and is not going to 'help' women at all.

MadCap Fri 08-Mar-13 16:58:42

Just adding a big YY to what all the previous posters have said. What a horrible idea!

DrRanj Fri 08-Mar-13 17:06:06

NO!

That's all I have to say about that...

HotheadPaisan Fri 08-Mar-13 17:11:33

Absolutely it should not be asked - unexpected and expected things happen in life, work can adjust, it's not that hard.

And irrespective of whatever plans you might have, you cannot ultimately control conception and pregnancy so it would be an utterly pointless discussion anyway.

Wishiwasanheiress Fri 08-Mar-13 17:24:26

Hi Thereona,

Re hr being human face of legal, not lawyers that doesn't fit the marketing angle. Professional friends?... Hr mops up all the human issues so they don't hit legal. All manager disputes, hirings, firings, petty jealousys and family issues. We are just designed to stop these hurting the firm. Damage limitators?

Phineyj Fri 08-Mar-13 17:36:16

This discussion has reminded me of the time I was asked in great depth about my childcare arrangements at interview, despite having no children! (was ttc at the time, looking at IVF so it was all a bit sad). Strangely I didn't take the job when offered...

thereonthestair you are talking about letting peers know of your plans, which is fair enough (especially if your earnings as a team depend on each other) -- that's not really the question here, which is about asking in a situation where the power to hire, fire or make life deeply unpleasant is with the person asking.

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

why stop there? you could ask female employees about their cycle length, frequency of intercourse, method of contraception, number of sexual partners and so on, then pop the answers into an algorithm to predict who, and when those women were most likely to get pregnant (either planned or accidentally). Then you could discriminate Really effectively.
which would save people like my ex boss from having to write "FYI, verylittlecarrot is pregnant" on the bottom of my internal job application form to spare the interviewer the inconvenience of considering me properly.angry
or you could accept that there is still massive inequality in the workplace, a gender pay gap, discrimination is still firmly entrenched, and we do not need any measures to facilitate further discrimination.
This would be a retrograde step, and a roll back of hard won rights.

nextphase Fri 08-Mar-13 18:06:03

I think companies should just assume ANY female under about 45 may end up taking time off as Maternity leave, and any man (think you can become a father to past retirement age?) may be taking extended paternity under the new rules.

If there is anyone in the company who is literally irreplaceable, they need to sort out a system of making sure they are replaceable, and that someone could come in new to the job and pick up the pieces if, for example, they fell under a bus, or maybe went on maternity.

Work had 6 months to decide where my work load was going. They told me about the cover plan 2 days before I left. I don't see what extra warning would have done.

JulesJules Fri 08-Mar-13 18:33:45

Would it make for easier career planning for women?

has to be one of the most hilarious things I've ever heard it's not .

Would it make it easier for HR to manage women out of their careers would be more like it.

TheChimpParadox Fri 08-Mar-13 18:52:06

NO !

Should you then ask how many children they are hoping to have ? and at what age do you stop asking the question ?

(Apologies in advance if my post appears again at some stage - I typed it on my phone but it has not appeared )

What 'open conversation' does COO of Facebook want ?

Q: Are you planning to start a family ?
A: No (lie)

End of conversation !

lubeybooby Fri 08-Mar-13 19:05:17

Just quite simply <headdesk> at this. For gods sake. For all the reasons everyone else has been saying.

Gatorade Fri 08-Mar-13 19:29:10

I personally don't have a problem with this. I was very open and honest with my employer about my plans to have another child when I returned from maternity leave. I found this invaluable as I'm in a senior management position and wanted to ensure I had a role that I could leave for another period of maternity leave without negatively impacting on client and colleague relationships. If i hadn't felt comfortable enough to have this discussion I would have ended up with a role that wouldn't have been appropriate to leave after 9 months, wasting both my time and employers resources.

Saying that it is up to the individual employee wether or not they feel they want to have these conversations, I certainly wouldn't want it to be mandatory. I think that the current situation is a bit ridiculous though with employers being worried about having frank discussions which could benefit both them and the employee.

thereonthestair Fri 08-Mar-13 19:31:35

Gatorade says it very well in my opinion. Maybe it depends on what you do though....

HotheadPaisan Fri 08-Mar-13 19:42:12

But I started ttc at 31 and didn't have a baby until I was 35, couldn't have put work and projects and opportunities on hold for that long.

And I didn't know when I'd be ready to try for another, and then two years later when I was ready I had a mmc at 13 weeks anyway, took another three months for my periods to return so I could try again etc etc.

Anyone can end up not working on a project for any reason at any time, that's just life.

TheFallenNinja Fri 08-Mar-13 19:45:09

No, absolutely not. Employers DO NOT GIVE A SHIT about employees, this constant prying is just that, prying and judging and making decisions that make themselves money.

GoSuckEggs Fri 08-Mar-13 19:52:33

ask away.... doesnt mean i will tell.

EATmum Fri 08-Mar-13 19:58:59

Ok, seem to have lost my earlier response.
1. No. Of course no. What possible advantage is there for the employee in their boss being able to quiz them about their fertility? Mad idea.
2. In defence of my profession, yes HR teams are employed by companies and work on their behalf. But unless you can show me a business that doesn't need supported and motivated staff, please stop painting us as the enemy. Some of us work very hard to provide help when our teams need it most. Because that is in everyone's interest.
3. The above notwithstanding I have this conversation about maternity/paternity plans regularly, but ONLY at the employee 's instigation. If they are ready to talk about their plans, and if they trust you (critical), a conversation can be helpful to talk about policies and benefits. Then people can plan, manage their lives.
4. So if you have to ask, either the employee isn't ready to talk or they don't trust you. Hence 1.

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