A U.K. Lesson: Increased Maternity Rights Diminish Job Prospects for Women?

I’m not buying what this article in the U.K. Daily Telegraph seems to be selling:

Employers may stop giving jobs to women because the cost of maternity leave and temp cover is set to double, legal experts have warned . . . .

New rules mean that female staff due to give birth from next month onwards must receive job perks such as paid holiday, childcare vouchers and gym membership for a full year rather than six months.

Companies will be liable for sex discrimination claims if they refuse to give the same benefits to women throughout 12 months of maternity leave.

In addition, separate rules being brought in by the European Union will give temps and agency staff – who are used in many offices for maternity cover – the same pay as full-time workers after just 12 weeks in a post.

An extra 4.5 million parents will soon have the right to demand flexible working patterns, such as different hours or part-time working, until their children turn 16.

Employment lawyers fear these improved rights for mothers could end up harming women’s career prospects, however.

They say the increased burden on companies, particularly small ones, may mean they simply choose not to employ women because of the high cost of keeping them on should they have children.

I would expect management-side employment lawyers in the U.K. or the U.S. or anywhere to make the same points. But the legislature in the United Kingdom has made a value judgment that these types of protections are needed in the British workplace. Probably because not too long ago a group of male executives thought women should be protected for their own good by being let go once they disclosed they were pregnant.

I hope that to the extent that British employers use the new laws as a pretext for not hiring women because they are or might become pregnant, that their feet are held to the fire and these last barriers to employment and career advancement are eliminated once and for all.

And who knows, if it works in the U.K., it might just work with U.S. laws as well.

Hat Tip: Dana Nguyen


This Post Has One Comment

  1. Vince Heine

    (Oops! Sorry shareholders, the CEO is at home with the newborn; don’t worry, though, your dividends will only go down a little. But hey, it’s only your net worth we’re talking about, right?)

    “Barriers to employment,” professor, or barriers to business growth? You appear to view this through the lens of social justice, casting aside the economic reality of protectionist legislation like this. Whether it’s idealism or naivete, your words are proof that more professors need to study, or at least encounter, economics (not that I have a degree in econ, but a library card goes a long way).

    Feel-good laws like these don’t help the economy/our country as they will likely increase the amount of jobs shipped overseas, where less regulation is the status quo of most/many labor markets. If the US enacts similar legislation, you can watch jobs jump overseas even faster than their already alarming current rate. This will only make the American business environment even worse as our country has the second highest corporate tax rate in the world and simultaneously fails to make almost any investment in infrastructure because it isn’t as politically sexy as laws like this, which, although illogical, appease many voters.

    Professors can say what they want as they sit shrouded in tenure and pensions, but go try and run a business. Extra benefits for women, especially money paid out for not working, i.e., maternity leave, may mean businesses hire one fewer worker or they can’t invest in new equipment or training. As a result, growth is slowed as more benefits for women means less jobs for everybody else. A similar event often happens when minimum wage is raised and unemployment increases; I view this as reasonably analogous.

    Less regulation is better for our labor markets–not more.

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