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A Writer On Writing: Are UK Maternity Rights Fair?

"Are easier domestic and childcare arrangements part of the attraction of being a full-time writer?'' asks Sally Jenkins.

How many of us dream of giving up the day job and staying at home to write full-time? Most of us, I bet.

But is our passion for the written word the only reason that we want to wave goodbye to regimented hours and the slippery ladder of promotion?

After reading a survey by Quality Solicitors I think there’s more to it than that – especially for women. http://www.qualitysolicitors.com/

The survey focussed on maternity rights. Apparently 42% of women are nervous about telling their boss they’re pregnant and 39% believe that pregnancy is viewed negatively by employers.

I thought discrimination against women of child-bearing age ended years ago!

Back in the 1980s I experienced it as a graduate on the university milk-round when I was asked by one potential employer, “Do you think it’s worth educating women to degree level if they intend leaving work to have children?”
I argued that an educated mother would make sure her children were well-educated too and thus be a benefit to society.

It happened again a few years later when I tried to change jobs as a newly-wed, one company asked, “When do you intend having children?”

“Not for a long time,” I said but I didn’t get the job.

At an interview most of us are happy to ask about the benefits that come with a position, such as the holidays, pension etc. but, according to the Quality Solicitors’ survey, only 15.4% of women ask about maternity benefits at interview – presumably because they are worried about not getting the job if they indicate an interest in having children. http://www.qualitysolicitors.com/maternity-rights/survey-results

But, it’s not right to heap all the blame for any unfair treatment of pregnant women on employers.

The survey revealed that 10% of the women questioned had accepted a job knowing they were pregnant. Of these women, just under half had the job offer withdrawn or their employment terminated when the employer found out.

Do you think it’s fair to accept a job without indicating that you will require maternity leave just a few months down the line? A large company could probably manage such a prolonged absence but it would place a heavy burden on a small business.
I think a pregnant woman should be open about her condition or start job-hunting after the birth.

There have been huge improvements in maternity rights over the last twenty years plus the introduction of paternity benefits as well. For example, from 2015 parents will be jointly entitled to one year’s parental leave following the birth of a baby and this leave can be split between the mother and father.

Anyone thinking of starting a family can find out exactly what they’re entitled to by clicking here. http://www.qualitysolicitors.com/maternity-rights/

The full Quality Solicitors’ survey results are here. http://www.qualitysolicitors.com/maternity-rights/images/infographic1.jpg

So, am I right, are easier domestic and childcare arrangements part of the attraction of being a full-time writer?
And have you ever suffered in the workplace for being a woman of child-bearing age?


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