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So.... do we get to much maternity leave in this country?

(36 Posts)
wisterialane Thu 15-Oct-09 09:47:26


I actually think the issue isn't the length of leave we can take; but the fact that only women can take it. It would have suited my family circs better if my husband could have taken some leave too. It would also support proper equality in the workplace as employers/managers would need to view men and women the same way with regards to parental (instead of maternity) leave.

ClaraDeLaNoche Thu 15-Oct-09 09:52:54

I see the DM hasn't mentioned the fact that most of this leave is unpaid or at the SMP rate. Also how on earth can she deny allegations of sexism in the City when the City has the largest pay gap? And finally all this balls about people getting paid millions - the average tribunal pay out is less than 10k and is based on actual losses.

So whadda loada rubbish.

sophiaverloren Thu 15-Oct-09 09:53:22

I took 6 months ML - it felt like a lifetime. I didn't contemplate for a second taking longer but contemplated for many hours and days about going back earlier. The only thing stopping me was difficulty in getting care for such a young baby and how I would feel about leaving DS in childcare at that age. It would have suited us far far better if we'd had the choice of DH staying home at that point.
But away from the personal - I too believe that until there is the "threat" of men taking a chunk of leave during their working life as well as women, discrimination will exist against women. As I mentioned to DH the other day, suddenly 50+ women would be in huge demand in discriminating workplaces!

wisterialane Thu 15-Oct-09 10:02:09

Yes CDLN, it's typical DM journalism - it wouldn't be such a good story if they highlighted the points you mention ... but nevertheless I think it is a serious issue - I don't think the maternity leave laws in this country do much for equality until the father can take the time off too.

I am a recruiting manager, and even though I have never rejected a female candidate for being child bearing age; if I was faced with an equivalent choice between suitably qualified candidates and one was a man, and the other a woman, I'm ashamed to say I know which I would chose. Maternity leave is difficult to cover and disruptive for my team - it's an unpalatable truth that I'll probably get flamed for.

ClaraDeLaNoche Thu 15-Oct-09 10:05:22

I wouldn't flame you for that, it is true. However it is also true that women bear children and need time off to do that.

My first thought about DH taking maternity time is the house would be a pit and there would be no washing done or food made. However on reflection it would show him what it is really like.

Disclaimer: All men are not like my DH.

sayanything Thu 15-Oct-09 10:18:44

I work for the European Commission (yes, I'm a grey Brussels eurocrat out to control your lives etc etc) - here women get 20 weeks fully paid maternity leave and then the option to take 6 months parental leave per child under 12 at any time at vastly reduced pay. If both parents work for the Commission, then parental leave can be taken by either (but not both). Lots of men do take chunks of time off, although I haven't heard anyone who took the full 6 months in one go; others prefer to spread it through the years, so they get a month off in the summer for 6 years for example.

I think that's fair: I don't think you can have comepletely equivalent provisions for men and women - women give birth and breastfeed - but anything over 6 months should be available equally to mothers and fathers.

THe article made me angry btw, crappy DM selective reporting.

dorothygale Thu 15-Oct-09 10:29:21

Where as I am not a DM fan I think in this case it was just reporting a speech made by a top city woman. And as someone who works in the city I do have concerns about the impact of maternity leave etc on women's progression/pay. If two people are working in the same role and one of them takes a year out of the office (and often comes back working more limited hours etc) -how can we expect them to earn the same?

I'd love it if the men in the office took extended paternity leave but I can't see it happening - in the vast majority of cases they are the primary wage earner so economically it makes sense for their wife to be off

andagain Thu 15-Oct-09 10:35:22

Oh trust DM to come up with article like this. Why am I not suprised?
Of course parental leave needs to be available to both parents and left for them to choose how to take it between them. But on the other hand if a woman chooses to take it all she should not be punished for it. (I am sorry but I found it really sad(but not surprised) that a woman (I presume) in this thread posted that faced between a choice of a male and female candidates would choose a male over the female of childbearing age because it is a nightmare to find a maternity cover!

dorothygale Thu 15-Oct-09 10:58:13

I don't think its a matter of being punished for it- some women expect the maternity leave not to affect their promotion etc which I think is unreasonable- if you took a year off for any other reason you wouldn't expect to be in the same place as if you hadn't taken a year off.

On the choice thing- it is rarely a direct choice so doesn't really come to that - but as someone who manages a small team the impact of maternity leave on the rest of the team is horrendous

cory Thu 15-Oct-09 11:23:23

It's all about the mothers, isn't it? Not a word about the babies. Or breastfeeding. Or the shortage of good quality nursery provision. Or the disadvantages of nursery for many small babies.

Bramshott Thu 15-Oct-09 11:26:10

Ooh yes, because 12 weeks maternity leave, like they have in the US, would be MUCH better for mothers, babies and families wouldn't it??? angry

Bramshott Thu 15-Oct-09 11:27:23

Oh, and if you click, make sure you VOTE in their crappy little "today's poll" think. Currently 74% of people think that "a year's maternity leave is excessive".

sayanything Thu 15-Oct-09 11:31:12

Dorothy, you don't see the argument that pregnancy and childbirth should be viewed completely differently than "any other reason" one might take time off work for? Fogetting all other perspective, from a purely economic argument, we need women to keep giving birth in order to support the current workforce in retirement. We also need them to be part of the workforce. Being deprived of your propotion prospects because you you gave birth is being punished.

And I don't buy the argument about the impact on the rest of the team: most of them will either take maternity leave themselves at some point in their careers or are a partner to someone who will, arent' they?

dorothygale Thu 15-Oct-09 11:42:43

It is not being deprived of your promotion prospects- they are just deferred. I just think you take into account how people are performing at work when looking at promotion/pay etc and if you are not at work your performance hasn't changed. What if promotion requires 2 years experience in a role- surely the person who has a year off doesn't have the necessary experience.

And regardless of the fact that people may directly experience maternity leave themselves etc this doesn't stop the impact on your job - yes it means that you might be understanding of the leave (and people generally are) - but you are still having to cover their work

wisterialane Thu 15-Oct-09 12:07:43

I agree - there should be some mandatory post-partum leave for the mother to aid recovery, but in my view this shouldn't be more than 6-8 weeks, and should be fully paid.

After this period, it should be up to the parents to decide who is best placed to look after their children. Breastfeeding would be one factor in that choice; albeit an important one for many.

I am sorry that it makes people sad that I would recruit a man instead of a woman if their experience and quals were equal - but I'm afraid that is the unpalatable truth. To say that taking a year out shouldn't affect your career or promotion prospects is naive imho. And it does affect the team. I have had one of my team members off on maternity leave for the past 11 months. Beyond the initial six months, I had to keep her temporary cover on a rolling monthly contract as I didn't know when she was planning to return, and I am not allowed to ask her. Understandably, the girl who was covering found it difficult to manage the uncertainty and found an alternative contract. So I am now left with a vacancy that I have found impossible to fill which has definitely impacted the team as they have had to pick up her work. I don't think that this would necessarily be solved by offering men parental leave instead of maternity only; but it would certainly level the playing field.

wisterialane Thu 15-Oct-09 12:09:44

And Bramshott - I do think a year's maternity leave is excessive. However, a year's parental leave split between the parents is not.

Tombliboobs Thu 15-Oct-09 12:31:14

Agree with Cory, how can we have these discussions without talking about the impact of policies in the wider context and in particular in relation to a baby's well being and development and the impact on policies such as breastfeeding, weaning etc.

We are talking about a year long maternity leave, most woman will have 2 of these (obviously some more, some less!)in their working career which can be as long as more then 40 years now. Out of these 40 working years, as a society can we not place a little emphasis on bringing up the next generation.

The workplace is important, but should never be important than the needs of a young baby. I seriously wonder about the priorities of society at times.

StewieGriffinsMom Thu 15-Oct-09 12:35:30

Message withdrawn

wisterialane Thu 15-Oct-09 12:38:46

OK Tombliboobs, you're right, it's important... but not the exclusive preserve of the mother, don't you think?

BobbingForPeachys Thu 15-Oct-09 12:57:24

I odn't know any women who took a year, si=xmonths is the norm as most women simply cannot afford any more.

'Ooh yes, because 12 weeks maternity leave, like they have in the US, would be MUCH better for mothers, babies and families wouldn't it???'

That was the ase when I had my older 2; with a few weeks off beforehand I was back at my sdesk by the time they were none weeks. Prety much broke me tbh, I remember actually begging DH to sell the house so I didn't have to return sad and it sid impact on BF too- expressing not an option (expressing in the shared loo of a haulage company- er no, plus I found it hard) soI gave up before then.

Horrid times,even with my Mum to take baby- without her I would have never gone back. I'd have ended up leaving Dha nd on benefits or soemthing.

Tombliboobs Thu 15-Oct-09 13:02:52

Wisteria, no not the exclusive preserve, but I don't agree that time should be taken away from the Mother and given to the father. If we want to balance, just give extra to the Father.

I am a big advocate for equality of parenting. DH and I share everything, but a father can't breastfeed.

WreckOfTheHesperus Thu 15-Oct-09 13:17:11

I would support the notion of 6 months mat leave and 6 months parental leave, to be taken by either parent, as this would go some way to levelling the playing field in employment terms.

However, Nichola Pease is quoted as saying that lots of women don't want senior roles because of the long hours that go with them. Many less well-paid jobs in the city and elsewhere also demand very long hours; you don't get to avoid these hours and the work-life balance issues that come with them just by deciding that you don't want to go for the very senior roles. In fact, it's often easier to be more flexible with hours at a more senior level.

Rather than accepting that women need to be careful not to upset the status quo in the work place, I would have thought that challenging the UK's long hours culture would help both women and men, with or without children, to fulfil their career potential and have happier and more flexible outside-of-work lives.

BadgersPaws Thu 15-Oct-09 13:51:13

"I would support the notion of 6 months mat leave and 6 months parental leave, to be taken by either parent, as this would go some way to levelling the playing field in employment terms."

Why not go all the way and drop the maternity leave and just have 1 year of parental leave?

With your proposal men would only be able to take 6 months while women could take a year, hardly equal and it still leaves employers liable to panic about women taking longer absences than their male colleagues and to secretly recruit accordingly.

True enough I'd expect that it would normally be women who would take that first amount of time off but why not give parents the choice about that? Most of them are pretty responsible people and might have all sorts of work commitments that make it tricky for the woman to take 6 months off.

With just a year of paternity leave the woman could go back sooner, if that's what the parents want, and the child would still be able to have a parent with them for that first year as the father could take what was left of the leave.

There would have to be some work done, things like perhaps not allowing both parents to be off outside of the first few weeks and decreasing pay, but why not give parents the choice and the power?

Bramshott Thu 15-Oct-09 13:51:43

I think there is a lot of support behind the idea of parents being able to split the leave if they want to.

I'm sure you can make compelling arguments for revamping maternity leave - by making it more easy to share between parents, or by asking mothers to give more notice of leave to return, but the simple question on the poll was "is it excessive", and I still maintain that it's not.

When I had DD1 there was only 6 months leave, which basically meant going back to work when your baby was 5 months old at most, and it definitely effected my decision not to go back - so much employer lost a member of staff they had trained and invested in, which they would probably not have done if the leave offered had been longer.

Purplebuns Thu 15-Oct-09 14:46:23

Why aren't men allowed to have a full year off to? Nevermind splitting it up. (but I realise first things first)
My DP had 8weeks off with our DD when she was born and it was fantastic. He really helped me and it was lovely bonding experience for us all.
In many ways the fact that men are only legislated to have 2weeks paternity leave, undermines the value of a father.
When we are all expected to work such long hours for so many years, a year isn't so much.
I also think that employers should be allowed to ask, when you are likely to return, to arrange your cover.

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