War of words over maternity leave comments

Jul 21 2004 by Brian Amble Print This Article

UK Independence Party Euro MP Godfrey Bloom has created a huge fuss with his comments that: "No self-respecting small businessman with a brain in the right place would ever employ a lady of child-bearing age".

But the inevitable knee-jerk reaction from other politicos, such as Labour Euro MP Glenys Kinnock, who called UKIP attitudes "neanderthal", do nothing to address the important issue that Bloom so crudely raises – namely the effect that the growing deluge of employment legislation is having on real businesses in the real world and how far companies should be expected to pay for the government’s social agenda.

Over at the discussion boards on BBC’s web site, it seems that most employers – including many women – agree with him.

"I heard [Glenys] Kinnock on the radio last night," posted one female employer. "She seems to have no idea at all how a small business works. It isn't a question of "rights"- it's survival in a cut-and-thrust marketplace. An employer hires people to WORK, not take time off to have babies."

Or, as another to put it more bluntly: "Political incorrect or not, for a small business this is reality. They can not afford to take somebody on, train them up and then they go on maternity leave for months. To all the woman our there complaining: He is highlighting why you may be finding it difficult to get employment."

With the plan to extend maternity leave to a year almost certain to appear in the Labour party’s next election manifesto, this is an issue that is not going to go away. For many small employers, their response will simply be not to employ younger women at all. And who benefits from that?