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Cath Everett

Sift Media

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

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News: Sheila Lawlor – Scrap “family-unfriendly” maternity leave


The UK should scrap paid maternity leave because it creates a “perverse incentive” for women to return to work and replace it with an unpaid career break instead, the head of a right-wing think tank has said.

Sheila Lawlor, director of Politeia who will chair the organisation’s fringe ‘Women in The Boardroom’ event at the Conservative party conference on Tuesday, wrote in an article in the Daily Telegraph today that maternity leave was “creating a great burden on many women and businesses”.
As a result, it put employers off employing women and led to companies being “reluctant to give jobs to women of childbearing age”. This meant that it was now time to abandon “what is wrongly called ‘family-friendly’ legislation, including the sole option maternity leave”, not least because it was bad for the women concerned, Lawlor attested.
“Family-friendly law is really family and female-unfriendly. Current arrangements at maternity too often lead to a downward spiral of earnings and career, a life of near-dependency on the state for top-ups of one sort or another and probably an impoverished old age,” Lawlor claimed.
The problem was that the average mother who was “bribed and influenced by a highly politicised culture” then “abandons” her job for a fixed term. Under current UK law, women can take up to a year’s maternity leave, six weeks of which is paid at 90% of their usual salary and the rest a statutory benefit figure of about £135 per week.
This situation means that the average woman’s income may fall sharply after the first six weeks of leave, but Lawlor warned: “She returns to work, bolstered, she thinks, by the option of seeking parental leave or “flexi-time”, and in-work tax credits if on low pay”.
Research also suggested that, after each birth, women returning work experienced continuing low wage growth – and this pay differential did not start to shrink for 15 years. Promotion prospects were also often hampered.
Therefore, Lawlor suggested that new mothers who did not wish to return to work right way or to take advantage of a year’s maternity package should be offered “the chance of a career break instead to coincide with their children’s early years, with retraining for work once the youngest goes to school”.
The model was already in place for female GPs, she argued.
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Cath Everett

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

Read more from Cath Everett

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