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Women Without Children Should Get Maternity Leave, Survey Says

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Telegraph: A British survey found that 74 per cent of women would be in favor of being allowed to take a six-month break, or even longer, as mothers are allowed to do when they give birth. More than two-thirds of those in favor were mothers themselves.

The idea of forcing employers to offer time off to women, not just mothers, came a day after one of Britain's most senior businesswomen, Nicola Pease, said excessive maternity leave and high sex discrimination payouts could backfire against women.

The deputy chairman of JO Hambro, a fund management company, said: "What I really worry about actually is that legislation and protection is turning this into a nightmare.

"I think we have got too long maternity leave," she told a Parliamentary select committee.

The survey results were met with alarm by business groups who said that it would be very difficult for many employers if they were forced to offer leave, even if unpaid.

Corin Taylor, Senior Policy Adviser at the Institute of Directors, said: "This is a nonsensical idea in the best of times. But in the deepest post-war recession, granting rights to women without children would be foolish."

Phil McCabe of the Forum of Private Business said: "Many employers would love to offer their staff more flexibility, but it is just not practical for most companies, especially small ones. It's a case of all hands to the pump right now."

However, others argued that the recession was the perfect opportunity for companies to offer leave as an alternative to a pay rise.

Sam Baker, the editor-in-chief of Red Magazine, which commissioned the survey of 2,000 women, said: "I think a lot of women who have worked for their employer for ten, or 15 years look around at their colleagues taking maternity leave and feel some element of envy and think, 'What would I do with that time away from the workplace?'

"This isn't a working mum versus working non-mums argument. Nobody thinks maternity leave is a holiday. Employers, especially now, need to incentivise their staff in imaginative ways and that could involve offering leave. Some companies are already doing this."

Earlier this year BT offered its staff the right to take a year off, in return for taking a 75 per cent pay cut - one of many initiatives by companies to cut their costs, without axing their staff.

Official figures out this week indicated that there 975,000 workers in Britain who are being force to work part time because they cannot find a full-time job, one of the reasons why the total unemployment figure of 2.47 million has not risen as high as many economists had expected.

Statutory maternity leave has become increasingly generous over the last decade. Mothers are now entitled to a full year off work with 39 weeks of paid leave.

Fiona Jennings, a senior employee with a high-street retailing chain, is 37 and does not have children, was one of the women who took part in the survey. "I made a conscious decision not to have children and that was the right decision for me. My career has always been as important as my home life. At 37, I knew that I would benefit hugely from taking a period of time away. My employers agreed to give me seven months off as an unpaid sabbatical. I leave for my round the world backpacking trip in three weeks."

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12 comments so far | Post a comment now
Jenny October 18, 2009, 11:00 AM

Whoa, hold up! So these women are jealous of the women taking maternity leave because they think of all of the things they could do with that time?? That is ridiculous, the lady on maternity leave is not going on vacation, she isn’t going golfing or catching up on her pottery, she is giving birth and then spending the following months completely sleep deprived and lucky to even get a shower for goodness sakes!

I don’t understand many women, women wanted to be treated the same as men, same jobs, same pay but now they want to be treated to special privileges??

Gary Borad October 18, 2009, 11:47 AM

WTF? You have got to be kidding. First 6 months! Second give it to all women? That of course is sex discrimination which will lead to men getting it as well. So, businesses have to pay “maternity leave” (read this as sabbatical) for every employee.

People in Europe don’t need more vacation time. Folks here in the U.S. are amazed how much vacation time foreign countries already get… and now they want more!!!

critter October 18, 2009, 12:56 PM

Not before paternity leave. Most of all adopting mothers, and fathers.

chris October 18, 2009, 3:09 PM

critter, in the usa men and/or women can take up to 3 months off work (without pay) under the FMLA for any situtation dealing with your family and that including adopting a child.

Minervah October 18, 2009, 4:18 PM

Some companies have PTO, Paid Time Off. Everyone gets the same amount of time off for illness, vacation, personal business etc.
What employees use this time for is their choice whether it’s for vacation time, education time or maternity time. That is the fair way of doing things. No one should get more time off for some personal life choices being considered more worthy than others. It should be equal time for everyone.

Robin October 18, 2009, 4:52 PM

The VP at the bank my husband works at managed to take paid maternity leave and every day dropped the newborn off at the company daycare. This while most families have to take a major financial cut for maternity/paternity leave!

Anonymous October 18, 2009, 5:39 PM

I am getting ready to take my second maternity leave. I had banked so much sick time and PTO that it was MY time to use. It is certainly not a vacation, in fact, I was SO ready to go back to work as I felt it would be a break for me to get back to being around adults!! I feel terrible that I felt that way but honestly I get so offended with people thinking it is a vacation. A lot of work goes into bringing a child into this world and raising them - I completely respect the women who have children and are stay at home moms - that’s a real job!

Anonymous October 18, 2009, 6:23 PM

I think they should get it, but only if they agree to have someone come over a rip through their internal organs, and then spend the remainder of their “vacation” being forced to wake up every two hours through the night, while they are trying to heal.

Gigohead  October 18, 2009, 7:01 PM

Maternity leave is by no means a vacation. I’m only being paid $150 bucks a week per the state limit on short term disability. I can’t afford to take any more time beyond my 8 weeks leave. It will bankrupt me if I do. I have a preemie so going back is tough but I have to do it.

ame i. October 18, 2009, 7:08 PM

I’m not sure how it works now in the U.S. but when I had my first child (almost 12) maternity leave was only paid for (for 6 weeks) if it was chosen under the insurance option and that option cost more. I didn’t opt for it b/c my husband and I had always planned on me staying home with our children until the oldest was old enough to drive. That was the main reason we waited until after we were married for 9 years to conceive the first one. We banked my salary and lived on his. That was one of the best decisions we ever made. I’ve never had a “paying” job I loved more than raising my 2 daughters.

PlumbLucky October 19, 2009, 4:54 AM

ame i - It hasn’t changed much. They don’t have to pay you. If you work at a place that falls under FMLA, you’re fine, though unpaid. If you don’t, make sure you work for decent folks with a written policy. If they don’t have a written policy, get what you and your supervisors decide on in writing.

talkgirl October 19, 2009, 7:30 AM

Come on, women. We can’t have it “all” and have it all our way. If your job is so unimportant that the business can do without you for six months you either are freeloading or greatly imposing on your fellow employees who will have to step up and take on your responsibilities. Ridiculous.

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