Government’s plans to reduce maternity leave to 18 weeks criticised by mothers and employers

David Woods , 04 May 2012


In advance of announcements on legislative change to maternity and paternity leave (expected in the Queen’s Speech on 9 May) a new study for Working Families and Netmums found overwhelming opposition to plans to reduce maternity leave to 18 weeks. 

Working Families employer members have also voiced concerns about reducing maternity leave to18 weeks and warn of hidden costs to business.

The Netmums survey of 1,500 mothers found nearly 60% of mothers said it would be hard to ask for more time off, if they had had to request more leave after 18 weeks of maternity leave with 24%of these saying their employer would have made it clear that they wanted them back at that time.

Asked if they would take advantage of their partners being able to take 'shared leave', 17% said their partner would be keen to take shared leave; 28% said he might want to but it wouldn't happen in practice; while a further 41% said the family could not afford for the father to take the time off.

Working Families also asked 11 employers what they thought of the 18-week maternity leave proposal. Nine of the 11 said they'd prefer a default of 26 weeks' maternity leave to the 18 week proposal.

Employers concerns included likely higher absenteeism among women returning before they were ready, costs of rearranging leave cover if plans change, and the importance of retaining women's workplace talent.

Netmums founder Sally Russell said:
"Women are very strongly saying that 18 weeks of maternity leave is not enough. It is possible to have a system that works for mums and dads but this isn't it.

"The findings show that an 18 week limit may well push women out of employment and the result will be the opposite of what the Government are trying to achieve"

Working Families chief executive, Sarah Jackson added:
"This isn't just about what women want: some of our top employers are warning of hidden costs to business if women come back too soon. We urge the Government to think again: 18 weeks of maternity leave is simply too short for women's wellbeing and for business success".




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Joe 04 May 2012

I'm sure if these results are dependent on how the question was put to them i.e do you want compulsory maternity leave to be reduced. No woman is going to say yes to that. If the question was made to reflect the actual proposed policy of allowing a family to decide how to share the leave Im sure the response would have been different. Its about choice and to be quite honest if it's not changed I think recent ECJ case would suggest such a long period of maternity leave could be sex discriminatory against men as it is not related to child birth a year down the line.

A little sense at last.

bj 04 May 2012

Not before time someone is trying to put some common sense into our daft maternity/paternity leave rules. We have terrible unenployment amongst young people. The reasons are manifest, but one (that nobody likes to admit to and consequently is never addressed) is our maternity/paternity leave. What small employer dare take on young people knowing that should they start a family, it could wreck their business.

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