Politeia was established in 1995, with the aim to encourage reflection, discussion and debate around issues that affect the daily lives of men and women – employment being one of them. Laws currently stipulate that there must be no discrimination against women or men in the workplace but Lawlor claims that “the legislation puts employers off employing women. Companies are reluctant to give jobs to women of childbearing age.”
Lawlor hasn’t been the only one to speak out against the UK’s family-friendly laws. Last year, Steve Hilton, David Cameron’s former strategic adviser proposed that maternity leave should be abolished as an emergency reaction to stimulate growth. The Beecroft report commissioned by the Government to recommend how to cut bureaucracy and kick-start growth said that small businesses should have the choice of whether to offer flexible parental leave. Both of these opinions were formed on the judgement that it is too costly for many businesses and restricts the economy.
Ms Lawlor went on to comment that maternity leave means that mothers miss out on experience, pension, pay and promotion the longer they are away from the office stating that “family-friendly law is really family and female-unfriendly”. The EU is set to introduce mandatory quotas to get more women in the boardroom but without the issue of maternity leave being addressed, these quotas could be extremely difficult to achieve. Instead of maternity leave Politeia have suggested that new mothers should be offered a “career break” during the first years of their children’s lives and retraining offered when the youngest goes to school.
Currently, family-friendly law allows women to take up to a year’s maternity leave and for six weeks of this they are paid 90% of their usual salary and following this the rules can vary and it is set at around £135 per week. Employers also cannot discriminate against women during the employment process and cannot ask any questions to a woman about whether they are expecting to start a family.
It is clear that, as of yet, the balance is not struck right and with a discrepancy between men’s and women’s salaries still holding true there is certainly a great deal of work to do before equality is truly reached.