Women being held back by equal rights legislation… or by anti-women business owners?
Louise Livesey // 18 July 2008
Further to this story, Woman’s Hour had a “conversation” (aka row) between Sylvia Tidy-Harris, the Managing Director of womenspeakers.co.uk and Sarah Veale, Head of Equality and Employment Rights at the TUC.
Sylvia Tidy-Harris basically says, as a small business owner, she’s not willing to pay for maternity leave for her staff. Not that we should be surprised, Tidy-Harris has already admitted to discriminating against women who are potentially fertile (whether or not they are) because they might get pregnant. Seens owning a womb and ovaries is actually considered, by Tidy-Harris and according to her most business owners/leaders, too much of a risk. Tidy-Harris claims her views are OK because she seemingly also believes that it’s
reprehensible for any business to take on a female member of staff, fully aware that at some point she is likely to have a baby, and then discriminate against her the moment she falls pregnant.
Now I’m all for “don’t come crying to me later” common sense but Tidy-Harris’ position is this – it’s better for businesses to deny women jobs than accept that, lo-and-behold, some women have children. She seemingly doesn’t demand celebacy from her male employees, though, no, just the women getting penalised for having reproductive organs then.
Melissaria has also pointed out, more eloquently than I’m going to do, that Tidy-Harris’s argument is basically that maternity leave for other women cuts back her own profits. So basically her argument is “I am too money fixated to realise women aren’t second class citizens”. Lovely. Oh and it’s not like she’s working her way up tooth-and-claw from impoverished backgrounds – Daddy is the cartoonist Bill Tidy and her start in life was as his business manager. She also makes much of having been step-mum to two girls – but fails to point out she became step-mum when they were 17 and 11 respectively and therefore beyond the infancy stage that maternity leave refers to. Disingenious some?
Oh and she doesn’t, one presumes (and from a quick glance at the photo’s on the website), extend the same rules (no women under 50) to her lucrative speakers business, given one of her companies is womenspeakers which, as does exactly as the name suggests. So it’s just lower paid women she doesn’t want to procreate then – you know those least able to exist without two paying incomes in a family and most at risk of being lone parents.
Meanwhile in response to Katherine Brewer’s original comments, Kamaljeet Jandu from GMB union has said:
“Rather than focusing her comments of Neanderthal attitudes of some employers she is missing the point that maternity and parental rights are good for employers, parents and the wider economy. It seems that Nicola Brewer is penalising women for having babies in employment while implying that women should go ‘back to the kitchen sink’ and have no aspirations for a career. Ms Brewer’s justification for this is a back lash from employers – that they stop employing women of child bearing age.”
Meanwhile Brewer has been somewhat backtracking by claiming, in the Daily Mail of all places, that:
“fathers’ rights should be recognised as well. She said: ‘No one is suggesting that women should not have the rights they have to maternity leave, what we are saying is that dads need a slice of the action too.'” and that if women return to work earlier their partners should get 12 weeks paid paternity.
Because of course it’s a big of a faux pas for the Chief Exec of the Equalities and Human Rights commission to be dissing women and particularly low paid women who benefit most from maternity and employment protection legislation.