Monday, July 21, 2008

Common Sense re Maternity

I had the pleasure last week to attend the session run by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission where Nicola Brewer pointed out that extending the maternity rights for women was having the effect of encouraging employers to discriminate against women. At last someone has had the nerve to push back on political correctness and say something that is obvious.

I remember a couple of years ago an MEP (male) saying something similar and being immediately branded 'sexist' and out of date. Now someone else has pointed out the obvious it may be taken more seriously.

It seems to me that in an equal opportunities world we should not have such a massive difference between maternity and paternity benefits. If we have something approaching equal pay there is a 50% chance that the mother of a child is the higher earner in the relationship and for economic reasons should return to work as soon as possible leaving the father to have the major childcare responsibility.

However there are reasons other than money that will influence who takes which share of the childcare. So why not treat parents like adults and let them decide between them who takes the time (and money) for looking after a baby. Some other countries do this successfully so there is no reason why we shouldn't. It would then become more socially acceptable for fathers to become carers and some of the current gender differences and stereotypes would be eroded.

As long as we have a massive difference between maternity and paternity provisions we reinforce the steroetype of women having children and men having careers. This is a 19th century view of work which is totally inappropriate for the 21st century. Let's hope the politicians will now catch up!!