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Snow: another reason for small business not to employ mothers?

(135 Posts)
Zealey Mon 21-Jan-13 18:30:47

OK, let me just say from the start this is probably trolling - and if you take it that way then I apologise as I don't mean offence to any individual personally, I just want to genuinely get the feel for the other side of the argument. I have a DD and a wife but she has had to take the day off work today as our daughter's school is shut. (Yes, I could've taken the day off instead of her, but we agreed mutually that I had more important things to do than her as I run a small business and she is part of a public sector which deals better).
My point is, with the majority of children coming from divorced and single homes these days, AIBU to not employ a single mum to my small business (when there is a man EQUALLY qualified to fill the job) because of all the time off they need and the risk even of them deciding to get pregnant again and force me through all merry dances of temps/maternity pay/will she/won't she come back/ etc.
There seems to be a knee jerk reaction that any such talk of the reality of this is sexist, but surely it is a fair point to at least accept the reality and have a discussion. However, I understand if someone feels the need to report this thread as it does pose some uncomfortable questions.

ivykaty44 Wed 23-Jan-13 18:19:47

where I work there are three singles mothers and 6 married mothers. Guess which mothers have been in every day without fail and which have had time of with their dependants?

ivykaty44 Wed 23-Jan-13 18:17:47

0blio Yes they do seem to want to and have blinkers on, but sadly they forget that if someone hasn't got morals outside of work then rarely will that change inside of work. So if things go horribly wrong for them they shouldn't be surprised. Legal bills can add up to far more than a couple of days of through snow or sickness of children....

ICBINEG Tue 22-Jan-13 21:00:31

I can see how maternity leave has been a problem in the past...but it will cease to exist soon. From that point there will only be 'baby leave' to contend with. Which may be taken by either parent making women of child bearing age and equal risk to men of childbearing age.

There is no problem being honest about the difficulties that small businesses face. Thinking you can avoid them by discrimination is massively unreasonable and somewhat stupid for all the reasons outlined in this thread.

Andro Tue 22-Jan-13 15:30:47

It takes 9-12 months to put a new employee through the required training courses,

Should have said

It takes 9-12 months to put a new employee through the required training courses to take on this role.

Andro Tue 22-Jan-13 15:28:25

As a manager, I too have found that it's very difficult to have a rational discussion about the subject of parental leave/maternity leave/emergency leave - unfortunately this makes putting back up protocols in place very difficult!

Being a woman in a high level job I had never really considered the potential issues surrounding parental leave (a big failing on my part at the time), until over half of a specialist team told me they were pregnant...within a 3 day period. The fall out was immense and was, without a doubt, one of the biggest tests of my management skills. It takes 9-12 months to put a new employee through the required training courses, anti-natal appointments, chronic morning sickness etc meant that the workload on the other team members increased hugely and the resentment in the team was toxic.

I knew then that there needed to be protocols in place and back-up systems so that a similar situation didn't occur again. The is only so much we can do because not all areas can implement WAH or even flexi-time (business reasons), the right procedures make a huge difference though.

We are rightly concerned about equality in the workplace; we are not going to get there unless we can have some really honest discussions about the fears (rational of otherwise), misconceptions, business impact of leave etc and the management of the afore mentioned issues without fear of being branded sexist/exclusionist/misogynistic.

Lovelygoldboots Tue 22-Jan-13 14:28:08

Decades of feminism and fighting for equal pay and there will always be someone with the view that women are employment liability. Depressing.

IfNotNowThenWhen Tue 22-Jan-13 14:19:12

Every woman I know who works "part time" works harder than the men they work with (and they bring more money and clients into their firms).
When a busy woman goes to work she actually works. Busy women don't fuck about.

IfNotNowThenWhen Tue 22-Jan-13 14:17:44

Clouds and trees: Men have children too.Children are not the sole responsibility of women. So maybe we shouldn't employ men of childbearing age then?
Good plan hmm

HumptyDumptyBumpty Tue 22-Jan-13 13:53:02

Prob been said (I skipped two pages of replies) but:
I am a woman, the only one in our small business (4 employees total). I am the only one who will therefore possibly become pg - currently TTC.

I am very aware that in such a small organisation, even a very short mat. leave will cause endless headaches; the work I do is very specialised, and it took me 6 months plus to understand the processes and learn to manage the workload. Replacing me with a temp/mat cover would be hard. So I feel for my employer, and I fully understand the reluctance of small business owners to employ women who are childless but of an age where it might be reasonably expected that on average, they are more likely to take mat. leave than not.

I do see that men/women unlikely to have children etc are also a 'risk' - but the 'they might leave/have to care for a parent/die' arguments apply to ALL employees, the 'risk' of a female employee of childbearing age become pregnant is an extra risk on top of the usual ones. Obviously, you can't have a business without risk, but in a difficult economic environment, I don't think it's unfair to consider this as an issue. Sorry, I know this will be unpopular, but OP asked for opinions.

Treats Tue 22-Jan-13 13:08:50

Sherbert - I'm a bit shock at your post.

I work for a small business and am about to take my third maternity leave - it's gone from strength to strength in the time I've worked here, so I always get irritated by these "fertile and childbearing women are such a THREAT to small businesses" arguments.

"he needs people to be in work, reliable and thinking of the job first ". Fair enough - don't disagree, but YABU because:

a) that's what I do - even though I have a child!
b) there's no guarantee that you would get that from someone who didn't have children.

If the OP wants to manage the risks to his business from potentially unreliable workers, he should look at all his recruitment and retention practices. By planning to discriminate against a whole swathe of people, based on their potential fecundity, he's cutting off a valuable source of experience and skills.


- a parent returning to the workforce might be happy to accept a lower salary in return for increased flexibility. If they can get a full time role done in four days, then it's a win win for both sides.

- if you had two part timers instead of a full timer, they could cover each other and you wouldn't risk losing 100% of their skills and experience if one of them leaves.

- maternity leave offers the opportunity to try out someone with
different skills and experience and to do something different. If you have to downsize for a bit, then not having to pay someone for up to a year can surely only be helpful!

ICBINEG Tue 22-Jan-13 12:44:24

It is perfectly reasonable to want to only employ people who are not on call for childcare, and are unlikely to go on maternity leave.

It is totally unreasonable to assume that this means hiring men over women.

My DH is the one on call for childcare and has taken far more leave to look after the baby than I have.

When you generalize you discriminate.

dreamingofsun Tue 22-Jan-13 12:42:01

sherbet - on that logic small businesses shouldn't employ men with old parents either? Several of my colleagues have had to take time off recently because their elderly parents have been ill and then for funerals etc - the latter can be up to a week if they need to clear people's houses out and deal with all the fall-out.

SizzleSazz Tue 22-Jan-13 12:31:06

Sherbert, i am totally flummoxed by your point confused. DH commits to his job (as do I) but he has had more time off than me for illness, car breaking down etc than I have. So I would actually be a more reliable employee than him. We share emergency childcare issues.

sherbetpips Tue 22-Jan-13 12:20:06

No shooting you from here. From a small business perspective it is very very difficult to run the business if your employees keep going off work for whatever reason. You lessen the chances of that if you employ a man in the current climate (regardless of whether that is right or wrong).
This is a small business - no working from home, no making up time later, etc. he needs people to be in work, reliable and thinking of the job first to keep his company afloat. How many of us working mums are willing to commit to that 100%? Not me and that is why he shouldn't be employing us and why most of us choose to work in companies that have the option to offer us flexibility.

ShamyFarrahCooper Tue 22-Jan-13 12:08:48

YABU to think you can just exclude women because she is a woman. Hiring a man who is equally qualified as a woman, purely because he is a man IS discrimination. I'd hate it if my husband thought like you.

We decide on the day who is taking the day if needed. There are certain days it is a nightmare for me to be off, and same for husband. We have been known to do a half day each, depending on deadlines/meetings. Oh, and whilst we earn the same basic, his earnings are more than mine as he gets commission payments and I do not.

FriendlyLadybird Tue 22-Jan-13 11:08:21

Legally there is no reason why a single mother should tell you that she is a single mother during recruitment -- as indeed a man does not have to tell you about his family circumstances.

So unless you plan on discriminating against ALL women, on the off-chance that they might be single mothers or the ones who provide cover when nursery/school is closed, I can't see how you'd make this decision. Given the number of men who do provide childcare and cover, I think you should discriminate against them too.

Oops. Looks like you'd better not employ anyone at all.

MMcanny Tue 22-Jan-13 10:12:05

I think just because it is the way things work in your house does not mean it is the way it works in all homes. In our home it is more likely to be my husband takes time off if need be for the kids, though it is probably more equal than that. I get paid more so my job takes priority. Plus, I work from home and can set my hours round the kids so it would seem lake taking a bit of a liberty to be off when the kids are not in school. Mostly I work evenings when they are in bed anyway. We both work in the private sector. I get more holidays and we don't use any outside childcare so I take half days when the schools are planned to close, or DH has to take a whole day just to cover those six hours. I work just under five hours during school and over five in the evening, four days per week. This suits my employer very well because our business has to cover out-of-hours. On occasion, like sickness when kids are lethargic anyway, or bad weather, I have worked with one or both kids in house. Again this suits my employer as often other office based staff cannot make it in at all, even without caring responsibilities in the mix. I am rarely off sick myself. My work does not suffer.

When I was effectively a single parent, my retired parents and inlaws did all the childcare infill so even when I had to work short notice overtime there was no question that it would/could be covered. I also had at-home-mum sister in laws who would help out on occasion, and of course, the childrens' father although he lived and worked away. I accept that I was maybe luckier than most in that situation. But my attitude was that I was grateful to have such a flexible employer who let me fix my hours most of the time so I have always been very accommodating of their requests. At one point in our house we were both pressed by our employers to work the same hours so DH became a stay-at-home parent for a while and I went from part-time to full-time variable hour working with my employer to fully satisfy their needs. In that case, had my husband's small business employer been able to pay him more and give him better terms and conditions than I had, it would have been the other way around.

You get what you pay for regardless of the gender of your employee. There are laws limiting such sexist assumptions as yours for a reason. I have one female friend who is separated from her husband and he has custody of their children at the other end of the country. She is not in the childcare pool apart from a few weeks per year when she takes annual leave. Her employer would be totally wrong to discriminate against her on the basis of her being a single parent. She is both single and a parent but her work is her life, not the family home.

dreamingofsun Tue 22-Jan-13 09:48:52

slightly more foreward thinking employers, such as the one i work for, allow people to work from home. as such their staff retention is very high and they have much more highly skilled/experienced people than they would normally. mothers like me stay, as it fits in with other responsibilities. had i been a man i probably would have changed jobs to one that was better paid. hopefully not to a place like yours that sounds like its run by a dinasaur.

cory Tue 22-Jan-13 09:20:43

Funnily enough, we have had several threads on relations where the woman is complaining of lack of childcare support from her partner which means she does not have time to run her own small business: he, of course, cannot take time off because he has a Real Job and his employer wouldn't stand for it.

Which makes me wonder what the set-up would be like in the OPs family if the OPs partner ran the business and the OP was employed.

AloeSailor Tue 22-Jan-13 05:31:08

<steps out of time machine, realises she has landed in 1953, gets back in, slams door quck and heads back to 2013>

sashh Tue 22-Jan-13 04:20:28

This is sexist bollocks.

Why don't you move your company to a country with no snow? It would be about as logical.

Yes women still do the majority of childcare, but would you employ a single parent father?

And did yo notice all the hospitals closing because the majority of the employees are female? Oh hang on, that's right, they didn't close did they, because their staff managed to get in.

DeliCatedinthewok Mon 21-Jan-13 23:32:02

OP, whether you take on board the assurances given from posters' personal experience that female workers aren't a significantly higher risk to your business is of course up to you. Somehow I suspect you won't, because they don't chime in with your own perception of general attitudes to work, which seem to go deep with you. And I doubt that appealing to your aspirations for the future employment opportunities of your DD will persuade you to try and improve things by taking a stand now, by simply choosing the best applicant regardless of gender for your vacancy.

But you could consider what my DP did 3 years ago when in need of clerical support, when I went back to my profession after taking a career break with our youngest (while at home' I'd gradually taken on his books, pricing, costing, design work, quotations, client presentations and liason, invoicing, etc., but as his business expanded it had long ceased really to be a 'spare time' job).

Instead of putting all his eggs in one basket, he advertised it as a job share - with the expectation that it would probably appeal to mums with school age children. In fact it turns out one of them happens to be exactly that, but the other best candidate turned out to be a gentleman nearing retirement age, whose employer's company had gone bust, and saw no realistic prospect of another full time job.

They have both worked out really well. They cover for each other during holidays, and if the need arises, for medical, childcare or weather reasons (it rarely does - they are both conscientious to a fault). They sort their hours out between them, just informing my DP of what they have arranged. At interview DP ran the idea past them that if one was unable to work for any extended period, the other would be offered the chance to cover their hours, and ultimately (if one moved on) the other would be invited to apply for the post on a full time basis, or if they preferred not to, to be involved in interviewing for their colleague's replacement.

DP gets the peace of mind that even in worst case scenario (if one fell under a bus, god forbid!) at least his business wouldn't be crippled.

Sam100 Mon 21-Jan-13 22:11:21

OP - You run your own business and are presumably the boss? Why didn't you take your DD to work? Or as a girl is the workplace not somewhere she should aspire to be?

ApocalypseThen Mon 21-Jan-13 22:04:31

Indeed. Humans, eh? I find the level of endorsement of the OPs views most depressing. Humans don't actually exist for the convenience of small business owners.

roseum Mon 21-Jan-13 22:03:12

Don't know if you've noticed - but the law about 'maternity leave' has changed - the father can now take the time instead of the mother. At present this only applies for the last 6 months (or any fraction of that 6 months that the parents choose), but the government is planning to make it so that either parent can take any fraction of the 12 months. So worrying about the woman going off on maternity leave may no longer apply - you could employ a nice, safe, man, and then find that because his partner is the higher earner, they decide that he'll take the leave as paternity leave and be off for a year.

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