Tories attack parental leave

// 13 March 2011

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The Tory government is planning to strip parental leave rights from parents who work in small businesses, reports The Telegraph.

Under the proposal from Chancellor George Osbourne, businesses employing 10 or less people will no longer have to give the same maternity and paternity leave provisions as larger businesses. Instead, The Telegraph reports, they would be able to “negotiate” with expectant parents.

Of course, the newspaper reports this with an odd tone of excitement:

Currently a women is allowed up to a year’s statutory maternity leave if she is an employee, no matter how long she has had the job, how many hours she works or how much she is paid. Her employer is also forced to give her old job back to her, or offer her a similar post, on the same salary and conditions, if she wishes to return.

Furthermore, under changes to take effect in April, if a mother returns to work without taking a full year’s maternity leave then the father will be able to take the remaining time, up to a maximum of six months – another moved opposed by most business leaders.

In case you’re wondering just how many people will this affect, in 2009, there were more than 1 million small businesses with one to nine employees. Just under 4 million people were employed by these companies.

However, the principle of the matter is that your maternity or paternity leave should not depend on the size of the company where you work.

You should not be forced to ‘negotiate’ your entitlement to parental leave if you happen to work for a small company. This will leave pregnant women even more vulnerable to making poor deals, being put on the “mummy track” or losing their jobs. Already this is a massive problem for mothers, with 30,000 pregnant women losing their jobs every year, according to the Fawcett Society, and countless more being forced into jobs with lower pay, that they are overqualified for. And that’s with the law ostensibly on their side.

This will set back women’s workplace rights, and the equitable sharing of parental leave, as men will also have to ‘negotiate’ their entitlement to take up leave, it seems from the Telegraph report. Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls warned that small companies employing just over the 10-person exemption limit might let go of some workers to shirk having to give proper parental leave.

Photo of graffiti showing a pregnant woman by Petteri Sulonen, shared on Flickr under a Creative Commons license

Comments From You

Jennifer Drew // Posted 13 March 2011 at 6:42 pm

Why limit removal of maternal rights to businesses employing less than 10 women or men? Why not totally remove any maternal benefits and/or maternal rights to all women who happen to be employed. Just think of the immense savings this will accord all businesses irrespective of their size.

After all women only work for ‘pin money’ do they not and the priority has to be ensuring businesses are not subjected to so-called ‘useless red tape!’ Oh I forget these maternal rights were hard fought for by feminists because women are more than just supposedly reproducers of men’s children (sic).

But misogynistic Tories are showing their true colours and steadily eliminating the tiny rights feminists have fought so hard for.

Oh but I forget this issue will supposedly affect men too – despite fact only a tiny percentage of new fathers take up their paternal leave.

Still never mind – the priority is to ensure women do not usurp men’s jobs and what better way than by targetting maternity leave.

What is becoming very clear is Cameron and his puppet Clegg hate women and will do their utmost to eliminate the tiny rights women have achieved and claim it is about ‘the big society!’

sianushka // Posted 13 March 2011 at 7:52 pm

this is unbelievable. but i can’t say i’m surprised. anyone who says the tories aren’t on an ideological mission to push women back out of the public sphere have their heads in the sand.

This idea that women are ruining small businesses by the pesky ability of some women to have a baby is being pushed by people as diverse as Alan Sugar to former feminist Rosie Boycott. It is why i am not surprised that this is finally being pushed as a political agenda.

Angry angry angry!

peace // Posted 13 March 2011 at 7:52 pm

Jennifer Drew, what Cameron and Clegg hate women. what does that include the women in their lives or just other women. hate is such a strong word i only use it to describe the way i feel about the lowest kind of person mostly rapists, pedos, killers. i am not at all in support of them but i really do not get people that fling words like hate, misogynist and sexist around like its nothing they can be very hurtful if they are not true.

JKBC // Posted 13 March 2011 at 8:13 pm

Great! Yay! How about another thing along this line! How about MPs have to negotiate for their salaries if they already have above a certain limit stashed away?! Wouldn’t that be a wonderful idea! And then, if they don’t get their salary, the rest can go into paying off the deficit!

But nooo, that’s not going to happen, is it?

Eurgh. The anti-equality agenda marches on.

Kit // Posted 14 March 2011 at 7:14 am

Instead of screwing over employees, why doesn’t the government help employers* financially to support employees who may be a “risk” to them.

I kinda assumed when the government puts in rules etc. to help more people have better job security and not be discriminated against, that they helped businesses comply with those rules. If Small businesses are at risk when they try and comply then obviously the government isn’t doing enough to help…

(*smaller ones anyhow, big businesses should be able to afford to sort themselves out if they’re not busy pissing money up the wall on tons of managers and crap they don’t need).

Mia // Posted 14 March 2011 at 3:14 pm

That’s ludicrious! And it means many people who want kids will start flocking to bigger businesses or government bodies. Laughable this is this though:

“Currently a women is allowed up to a year’s statutory maternity leave if she is an employee, no matter how long she has had the job, how many hours she works or how much she is paid”

Yeah right, doesn’t work that way. Very very few places get close to that. From an employer the maternity pay can be for as little as 6 weeks, after that, half or even nothing. It’s up to the company to set that contract. Also you do not get to suddenly turn up to most jobs, get pregnant and be entitled to maternity. A lot of small businesses (as my sister found out to her peril when she was 1 month pregnant and 1 month shy of beign there a year) can and will get rid of you beore the ‘alloted contract time, if they so wish. Be it by redundancy or dredging up complaints-however false.

Why can’t we have that neat idea of ‘parental leave’ that was suggested before? Two weeks off for both parents and then parental pay for up to 6 months for the one wanting to stay at home? That way women would hopefully not be automatically discriminated against since the dads (if applicable in a het relationship) could have that option too and employers wouldn’t know who would take it? I know that would help me as the higher earner of us two…

Clara X // Posted 17 March 2011 at 12:25 pm

Not a good idea at all. I don’t think the Ministers are deliberately trying to put women back in the home, but I do think they assume that everyone is strong and confident enough to negociate a good deal on maternity and paternity leave.

cim // Posted 17 March 2011 at 12:43 pm

Clara X: “I do think they assume that everyone is strong and confident enough to negociate a good deal”

You’re giving them more credit than I would. If everyone was able to do that, then small businesses would be in just the same position as now, so all the plan has done is mean that employer and employee have to argue it out rather than just going with the standard.

I think they’re hoping and expecting that most employees won’t be able to get a good deal – and so save lots of government money that would otherwise be spent reimbursing businesses for the costs of the leave. (Note: small businesses are reimbursed by the government 104.5% – no typo – of the cost of the leave, for statutory maternity and paternity pay)

Philippa Willitts // Posted 18 March 2011 at 12:57 am

I’ve just read this and it seemed relevant to your post. Flexible working regulations for parents going to be scrapped.

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