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“More rights than a protected panda bear” – maternity leave … continued

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How has this affected you personally, and as part of the company?

  • “I was lucky to have a 50% company maternity pay scheme so that helped, but a number of my senior colleagues living in the south east with huge mortgages felt under pressure to return to work very quickly to minimise loss of earnings.” Anne Yarker, HR Consultant, Simon Jersey
  • “Not used it myself and happily unmarried and childless, but as an HR advisor, it is difficult to have the conversations with people and to hear of the financial difficulties which they face as a result.” Alison Rodwell, Senior HR Advisor, Hewitt Associates Outsourcing Ltd

What do you think about statutory pay rates for paternity and adoption?

  • “A joke – most men are the main breadwinners – how can you support a family on that? It does not encourage men to take the leave they are entitled to.” Anne Yarker, HR Consultant, Simon Jersey
  • “Practically speaking (after all I’m a daddy now) six months is a blink of an eye. The additional six months is nice although you don’t really get any income support out of the benefit and no doubt most working families will be tempted to cut that short and get on with work and careers, which I feel is probably to the detriment of the child.

    “Besides, the cost of the childcare for the wee family addition is probably as much as the lower of the two salaries (excluding other tax breaks). It strikes me that the legislation actively encourages the lower paid family member not to go back to work at all, simply because of the costs. Britain could hardly be called a child friendly environment.” Alex Jaggers, HR Manager, Economatters Ltd

  • “Personally I think they should be applied. However, the majority of men in my experience will not take the leave as Paternity leave but as holiday as it means they don’t take a drop in their salaries – especially if their partners are then only on SMP or unpaid leave.” Alison Rodwell, Senior HR Advisor, Hewitt Associates Outsourcing Ltd
  • “We do exactly the same as maternity for paternity and adoption, but most men at the company think that two week’s paternity leave at the current levels is woefully inadequate and unsupportive of working fathers.” Clare Shaw Cross, HR Manager, LMUK

Is your company supportive of women who take time out to have children?

  • “To an extent yes, but as an SME with a limited budget it can put a huge strain on the business, especially if it is a senior member of staff.” Anne Yarker, HR Consultant, Simon Jersey
  • “Absolutely – we also like to plan in advance to ensure there is adequate cover while the woman is out of the office on maternity leave.” Claire Legassick, HR Specialist, Cargill PLC

Does your company have an enhanced maternity package on top of the minimum level?

  • ”Yes, we encourage flexible working and have enhanced the package available – we pay 90% of salary for first 13 weeks, then drop to SMP for next 13 and then onto unpaid. We offer a return to work bonus if they come back and remain for a further six months after. We also offer flexible working options and benefits within our flex scheme for parents – i.e. child care options etc.” Alison Rodwell, Senior HR Advisor, Hewitt Associates Outsourcing Ltd
  • “We are a good performing software company and nevertheless we are offering only the minimum level and have no enhanced maternity leave. This is a shame as it could be a good selling point in an interview process to show that, as a company, we do care for our staff.” Berengere Toscano, HR Manager, LANDesk Software
  • “Our company only offers SMP for maternity leavers but we do have a bonus payment to encourage maternity leavers back to work. Those that return to work get an additional payment in their first pay on their return with the condition that they stay in the company for a minimum of six months after their return.” Amanda Celliers, HR Manager, Haygarth Group

What changes would you like to see?

  • “Biggest change would be the right for ALL employees to request flexible working – not just those with children under six years – I think we would all like to be able to have a better work life balance in terms of chosen working hours and days, whether we have children or not – just because you don’t have children, doesn’t mean you don’t have a life.” Alison Rodwell, Senior HR Advisor, Hewitt Associates Outsourcing Ltd
  • “I would like to see more women encouraged to have children. More and more higher educated women find it too difficult with their career progression to take time out to have and rear their children – then suddenly the age of 37 arrives very speedily and they find it’s too late with the many complications of infertility. In this country we do not value children as they do in other countries and that is why there are not enough younger workers to pay our pensions!” Annie Tarry, HR and Administration Manager, B-Plan Information Systems Ltd
  • “Increased rates of pay; a confirmation in the legislation that holiday accrues at the Working Time Regulations (WTR) level during Additional Leave (at the moment, it is open to interpretation even though most people assume that the holiday does accrue at this rate during Additional Maternity Leave (AML)); an additional week of paternity leave provided for fathers.” Claire Legassick, HR Specialist, Cargill PLC
  • “More support for business in meeting the salary costs of replacements.” Anne Yarker, HR Consultant, Simon Jersey
  • “The purpose of the time off, whether maternity, paternity, adoption or parental is to care for a child. We show little enough care in terms of legislation or support for non-working parents, there is a constant stream of information about the harm that nursery inflicts on your child and a lack of flexibility to enable parents to manage child care – especially over the age of five. It’s not fair, but if you have benefits aimed at care and support for children it is surely about the benefit for future generations – if you don’t contribute to that I can see no reason for those people to have a right to any benefit.

    “I would realistically like to see average weekly pay for maternity / paternity / adoption funded by the Government and not from the pockets of industry. I would like to see the period for time off set at up to 2 years. But I would also like to see more flexible arrangements for parents of children up to the age of 16 and not just age five.” Alison Whale, HR Manager, Constar International
  • “Generally the statutory minimum is so low that you can’t count on it to cover your usual monthly expenses (mortgage, electricity and gas bills…). This should be one of the biggest changes. The statutory minimum should be linked to your income in terms of percentage or should be at a level where it is more than symbolic. Also it should be paid for longer than 20 weeks and should cover a full year.” Berengere Toscano, HR Manager, LANDesk Software

  • The overwhelming response to this issue underlines the significant impact that maternity policies have upon not just new parents, but the workplace and UK business as a whole. Frequently an increase in SMP rates and greater flexibility for all staff is requested, yet our members are undecided whether such legislation should originate with government or industry. Is maternity a right or a concession?

    What do you think about maternity and paternity pay rates? Is the treatment afforded to expectant parents the unfair privilege of people who choose to have children, or is the current system still hugely inadequate? Please post your responses below.

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