Equality laws ‘are now holding women back’ (UK)

Times Online (UK) 14 July 2008

Maternity rights damage chances of promotion
The radical extension of maternity leave and parents’ rights is sabotaging women’s careers, according to the head of the new equalities watchdog. Nicola Brewer said that it was an inconvenient truth that giving women a year off work after the birth of each child – soon to be paid throughout – was making employers think twice before offering a job or promotion.

British fathers have the most unequal rights in Europe, entitled to only two weeks of leave compared with 52 for mothers..Ms Brewer said that calls to the commission’s helpline from women who had lost their jobs after becoming pregnant suggested that they were paying a heavy price for their new rights. She said that her fears deepened earlier this year when the entrepreneur Sir Alan Sugar claimed that many employers binned the CVs of women of childbearing age.

Business leaders have criticised the new maternity laws, saying that they are a headache for employers and that it is difficult to plan the workforce if parents go part-time. But this is the first time that a criticism has come from an organisation that campaigns on behalf of women… Ms Brewer said she feared that plans to extend the right to request flexible working hours until children were 16 could hamper women’s employment prospects further.

Officials at the commission say that they are studying research from Sweden that has found that fathers who take up to two years off work after the birth of a child are 30 per cent less likely to get divorced.