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Maternity, what's the answer?

There has been a lot of discussion recently about maternity and paternity leave. First the Equality and Human Rights Commission said that Britain has the most unequal parental leave arrangements in Europe. It also said that such a long period of maternity leave has led to discrimination against women as employers are wary of taking them on in case they become pregnant. Its suggestion was to give both mothers and fathers four months off as paid parental leave, then an additional four months paid at a lower rate to share between them. However this was not particularly popular with business leaders. Now reports are saying that the government is shelving its plans to extend paid maternity leave to 12 months and allow fathers to share up to six months of this.

It’s a difficult situation - women need sufficient time off after having a child but giving them too much, especially in comparison to men, could actually prove damaging to both business and the case of gender equality. Whatever happens with regard to maternity leave, paternity leave definitely needs to be extended in order to help break the traditional assumption that women must take all responsibility for children whilst men remain at work. Times have changed and we need the legislation to reflect this.

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A Finextra member
A Finextra member 19 June, 2009, 12:23Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

In the US laws, there are no laws requiring paid leave although most women can take up to 12 weeks unpaid during pregnancy or after the birth of their child.  Under the Family and Medical Leave Act, men can also request leave.  But the law, excludes companies with fewer than 50 employees and the average maternity leave in the US is 6 weeks. And despite being able to take paternity leave, the data shows that few men are actually brave enough to request or take it. Yes times have changed but corporate policies and business attitudes not so much.

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