Mel Stride MP – Out of Step?
As the Labour Party convenes its’ Women’s Conference in Manchester, UnionHome reports on the threat to maternity leave.
Mel Stride MP has called from Conservative Home for a review of maternity leave with “a close look at relaxations in protected-employment legislation for smaller businesses”. He cites a OECD table which he says shows maternity leave breaks the relationship between women and the workplace: “female workplace re-engagement for women with young children is actually stronger where maternity rights are less generous to employees and less onerous on employers”.
This is one giant leap of logic for Stride – the correlation is weak enough without the lack of consideration of important factors about the economy and culture of the individual countries. Perhaps Stride has forgotten that the real problem with workplace re-engagement comes from pregnancy discrimination: the Equal Opportunities Commission in 2005 found that 30 000 women lost their jobs as a result of unlawful pregnancy discrimination every year. That is almost 8% of all pregnant women at work.
As the campaign Valuing Maternity highlights: Pregnancy discrimination is a problem. Pregnant women and new mothers rarely take action on pregnancy-related problems at work, even when they lose their jobs. Only 3% of women who lose their job as a result of pregnancy discrimination take a case to the employment tribunal. 71% do nothing, not even raising a grievance. The Government doesn’t collect any evidence on pregnancy-related problems at work. They don’t know how widespread the problem is, and they are not trying to ﬁnd out.
Stride’s article highlights 52 weeks leave, and the requirement to keep a women’s job open. However, he does not include the fact that Statutory Maternity Pay is only 90% of your average earnings for 6 weeks and then a flat rate of £135.45 for 39 weeks. There is no Statutory pay after this period.
That said – Stride’s graph does remind us that we lag some of our international friends.
Though his is a voice from the right of his party, it’s worth remembering the coalition record in this area – one step forward, two steps back.
In Dec 2010 they joined seven other EU countries in opposing the Pregnant Workers Directive, an extension of paid maternity leave to 20 weeks. In Jan 2011 they announced plans for shared parental leave, which the TUC has major concerns with, and are likely to have been overhauled. However, in March that year it was leaked that the Chancellor planned to lift the “burden” of statutory parental leave laws on companies with 10 or fewer employees as part of his “growth strategy.” In January of this year the Government delayed the extension of unpaid parental leave – The increase from three to four months was set to come in March 2012, but the government announced it would delay until March 2013.
The Conservative Party is torn in two directions on maternity leave, understanding that to weaken it would weaken it’s claim to be pro-family.
With thanks to the advice of Susheila Juggapah (Sushi) from Maternity Action when compiling this article