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.

changeforthebetter Fri 08-Mar-13 20:03:35

No they shouldn't be asking. Look, women have babies. These babies will be economically active (for the most part), paying your pension when you are an old gimmer, you selfish fucker!angry Sorry, I feel strongly about this. Women "having time off to have babies" - yeah right, cos childbirth and early motherhood is just a walk in the park, yeah?! (Ps my bile is not directed at OP but at anybody who thinks motherhood is the easy option)

MrsHoarder Fri 08-Mar-13 20:03:42

No. Employees private lives are not the property of employers and this would make the social problem of women being reluctant to risk their careers to have children worse.

Of course big business would prefer their employees to not have a family life, but that doesn't mean they should be allowed to try to interfere.

MrsHoarder Fri 08-Mar-13 20:07:06

No. Employees private lives are not the property of employers and this would make the social problem of women being reluctant to risk their careers to have children worse.

Of course big business would prefer their employees to not have a family life, but that doesn't mean they should be allowed to try to interfere.

KatieMiddleton Fri 08-Mar-13 20:14:49

No. I don't want to hear if you're doing it! <clutches pearls>

I do want to know if we're losing good people due to having children; not managing maternity leave well; not meeting our statutory and moral duties; discriminating by not offering enhanced occupational benefits to men that we are to women. I also want to know what parents and all other employees think and how I can help make it a great place to work.

And yes, ultimately my job is to work for the employer and the best way to do that is to make sure we treat people fairly and do things consistently and with an eye on the future. At least it would be but I'm on maternity leave.

FadBook Fri 08-Mar-13 20:17:43

I saw a caption on a cartoon today with a woman lying face first on a desk saying: headdesk: when facepalms are just not enough This describes the comment by this silly woman.

I agree with most of you, this is a HUGE step backwards. If employees want to be open about their plans, that's of course ok, but this shouldn't be a compulsory disclosure, or even asked of people by management/owners. Throw fertility issues in to it and you are dealing with many emotions that most people try and separate from work (from personal experience) and it just isn't something that is going to help close the already existing gender pay gap or give the same opportunities to women as men.

I disagree with those who mainly have harsh words against HR. Of course, if that's your experience, then you haven't met the other 90% of HR professionals who do care about employees, their development, health and welfare. It's just a shame that some of you view all HR departments negatively with their people 'out to get ya'. We are just normal people, paying the bills by working in job we love most of the time Of course, we are accountable to whoever pays our salary and it is those people (normally managers, owners or stakeholders) that are the ones who sometimes push for illegal / unethical actions to happen; not HR. It is with integrity and extremely strong influencing and negotiating skills of your HR department (supported by employment law in place, which has improved workplace practices incredibly over the past 20 years) that results in those people (managers etc) doing things the right way and not the way they'd like to do it (think Alan Sugar - your fired!) I'm making a general sweeping statement here, of course not all managers/owners are like this (just like not all HR people are squeaky clean) but HR get a bad name for carrying out negative processes that sometimes need to take place (disciplinaries, redundancies and dismissals) and the good things like development, training, recruitment, pay and reward and engagement strategies that are implemented in an organisation are forgotten.

<just saying>

<gets off high horse>

<reaches for wine>

KatieMiddleton Fri 08-Mar-13 20:20:49

That would be Alan Sugar currently appearing at an East London employment tribunal? wink

toomuchpink Fri 08-Mar-13 20:31:28

It would be totally wrong to ask women. I planned to start a family - a year later I still had not successfully conceived. Imagine if all that time my boss was thinking he would not assign me anything too involved in case I was about to go on mat leave. It would have been an even worse year than it was. I have a friend at work who has been unable to conceive successfully for years, how weird would it be for her if the estranged HR team knew all about that? I have sympathy with the needs of businesses to plan, but they get time to plan between the woman announcing she is pregnant at 12 weeks and her going off on mat leave nearer 40.

ohforfoxsake Fri 08-Mar-13 20:32:48

No.

no. and if you only ask women what kind of message are you sending?

minibird69 Fri 08-Mar-13 21:03:59

Absolutely NOT. There is quite enough discrimination in the work place (and the school drop off) already. Maybe employers should ask all potential employees if they plan to have back problems?

(Happily married with 2 kids inspite of never wanting either)

FadBook Fri 08-Mar-13 21:08:09

KM- grin @ Alan Sugar this week. I imagine it isn't his first ET claim or his last wink didn't he cause controversy a few years back when he asked that posh Katie Hopkins about childcare? I'm sure he said something similar to what this woman is saying

morethanpotatoprints Fri 08-Mar-13 21:10:58

Ok, they shouldn't be allowed, but sorry if I'm being a bit dim, but why would they ask men. Have I missed the first man to have given birth or something, lol.

Strix Fri 08-Mar-13 21:36:57

Men should be entitled to the same parental leave that women are (only then will they start taking it), and then t hey will be asked the same questions. Until that is equal, this question should not even be discussed. Totally outrageous that this question should even be taken seriously.

beside they also get paternity leave potato?because they also need child care?

morethanpotatoprints Fri 08-Mar-13 22:05:02

So, just out of interest how long is maternity and paternity for and when do women start maternity leave now.
I ask as my kids are older and it used to be start maternity at 28 wks and dh had no paid leave.

KatieMiddleton Fri 08-Mar-13 22:07:48

Fadbook - no idea about the horror that is KH but I did really enjoy the bit reported on radio 4 that apparently he had been told to "answer the questions not ask them" hahaha.

Is there a salacious emoticon? Because if so I want to use it here grin

KatieMiddleton Fri 08-Mar-13 22:13:20

2 weeks ordinary paternity leave for fathers (or the person assuming the parent role), 52 weeks for mothers that can start as late as the day after birth but not earlier than 15 weeks before the expected week of delivery.

But, a mother can choose to give the rest of her leave to the father once the baby is 20 weeks old so long as he is an employee and he can take a minimum of 2 weeks up to what is left of the mother's 52 weeks but not to exceed 26 weeks. The mother must return to work to pass over the leave. Rights to statutory pay depend on length of service and self employed men get nothing.

This is due to change in 2015 if shared leave comes in except for the big about self employed men. They'll still get nothing.

KatieMiddleton Fri 08-Mar-13 22:14:44

Bit not big.

That was to answer potato prints.

minibird69 Fri 08-Mar-13 23:08:09

I still think its unfair to ask because the leave is not balanced and the question of childbirth is unpredictable and highly personal. A few years ago (5) I returned to work after 6 months and my OH gave up working to be SAHD to our very welcome but earlier-than-hoped-2nd-child (you know the ones). Our choice - OH self employed and I earn more.... But 26 weeks max parental leave for fathers vs max. 52 weeks for mothers is NOT balanced in terms of the impact to the business (which is all employers REALLY care about). My employers, benefit from the fact that my DH still puts childcare first when considering his work options and is always there to take the slack if there is a work 'emergency’. Yet, when I was sterilised because I dont want another pregnancy I felt the need to keep this private from my employers because its intensely personal. Its none of their business!

StillStuck Fri 08-Mar-13 23:16:59

the problem is that we might have 'plans' for when we intend to start a family but they don't always go to plan. DH and I planned to start ttc at a certain point, then had to postpone because he was having a wobble about it, then in the end it took me over 2 years to get pregnant. I moved employer just a few months before I got pregnant, at which stage I had almost given up expecting it to ever happen or at least I expected we would need fertility treatment. So it is hard to see how an employer would hope to 'plan' for all this uncertainty.

also, I would be wary of it as my experience is that there are employers who pay enthusiastic lip service to the idea of being family friendly whilst harbouring numerous managers who are anything but (e.g.my colleague, a strong, kind and talented woman, was bullied ceaselessly throughout her pregnancy and again on her return from maternity leave, in a so called 'family friendly' organisation).

It worries me that if employers were allowed to ask, supposedly in the interests of 'planning' then they (or at least some ) would discriminate against a woman planning to start a family and yet in reality (due to changes in relationship circumstances/ infertility/ other) her plans might not materialise.

however, I do have some sympathy for the view in the sense that I was very open and upfront about having a child and wanting to balance work and childcare when I applied for a job whilst on maternity leave, and consequently I knew from day 1 (and have been proved right) that my employer was supportive of my need to balance the competing demands of work/ childcare: I have been able to work part time, I have adjusted my hours several times in the past 2 years for different reasons, there is no hassle whatsoever if my child is ill or I have childcare problems, I can always leave on time, its a pressured job but any extra work I do once my son is in bed and I claim back the hours (so can have bonus time with my son when things are calmer)

StillStuck Fri 08-Mar-13 23:18:04

although yes, agree they should ask men too, DH now works compressed hours so he can do the childcare one day a week. luckily his employer was very supportive of the suggestion.

I was quite concerned that I would find it difficult to get a new job when I had one small child as the assumption might be that I would want another fairly soon. It was obvious that I had a child as I was looking for part time work to fit around my family life. I might have preferred to be able to discuss this at interview, but obviously it couldn't be raised by an interviewer and it seems odd to blurt out "I don't want any more, or at least not for a long time".

In my job, I have few dealings with HR and can't imagine how they could instigate a conversation about my plans for further children. I can easily imagine discussing it with my line manager, but I appreciate that I am lucky to have a good relationship with my line manager. HR is often quite a remote function and not necessarily involved in sucession/maternity leave planning as much as the department itself.

I don't think we sufficiently recognise the benefits of employing working mothers or soon to be mothers. In my situation, my employer has allowed me to work flexibly and in return has loyalty and is aware that my circumstances will make me loyal so can rely on that to make plans. If I do have a further period of maternity leave then as a large organisation it is a great opportunity to second someone into my role to gain experience and grow within the organisation.

Even though I feel I could discuss this with my line manager and I don't think the impact on the business would be much of an issue for my organisation, I haven't done so. This is because I agree with previous comments that wanting a child, TTC and being pregnant don't automatically lead to maternity leave. I certainly am not planning my career around a maternity leave that might never happen and I don't want my employer to be doing this either. Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans - I don't think you should put everything on hold for a twinkle in your partner's eye and you certainly don't want anyone else putting it on hold on your behalf.

badinage Sat 09-Mar-13 01:51:32

Obviously no because it would be against the law, but this sort of idiocy from Facebook doesn't surprise me in the slightest and if a senior executive is coming out with this sort of lunacy, we can all guess how much lip service her organisation pays to diversity in the workplace. This sort of public comment would put any sane woman off from applying for a position there, so how foolhardy to diminish the pool of recruitment talent in one fell swoop.

The focus on mothers and not fathers is absolutely typical of an organisation that allows rape apologists, rape inciters and hate speech against women on its site.

nooka Sat 09-Mar-13 04:52:49

If I was asked a question about my childbearing plans during interview it would seriously make me question whether ii was the sort of organisation that I would like to work for, and I would most likely turn the job down if offered it.

I did once have a conversation about pregnancy with my manager, but that was very different because I liked her, and knew she valued me. Plus it wasn't a difficult conversation as dh was already lined up for the snip. It was cued by another team member announcing pregnancy so for fairly obvious reasons she was thinking about interim arrangements. I've never needed to ask about maternity policies because they were available on the intranet.

EuroShaggleton Sat 09-Mar-13 06:02:16

The planning excuse is pretty flimsy when you think that people can go off on sick leave with next to no notice (e.g. Colleague has just had big op and been off for three months on about a fortnight's notice) and have notice periods of typically 1 to 3 months. Businesses just have to be able to cope with personnel changes. Mat leave is the one they usually get the most notice about.

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