New UK maternity legislation discourages business from employing women

New research by the software company Citrix Online suggests that over half of the employers surveyed believe new maternity legislation introduced in Britain on 1st April this year is making some managers think twice about recruiting women.

34% of small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) were unaware of the new legislation, which includes the extension of statutory maternity pay from 6 to 9 months, and the removal of qualifying criteria so that all mothers are entitled to 12 months of maternity leave.

30% of employers surveyed thought that it would be harder to retain talented women in the workforce, while 26% thought the latest changes would have a commercially negative impact.

Conversely, 72% of respondents felt that the new regulations will cause more progressive companies to adopt additional flexible working practices to help working mothers manage the demands of work and family.

Currently, 78% of employers allow staff to take a dayÂ’s holiday at very short notice and 64% offer the option to adjust start and finish time. However, just 18% offer formal flexitime and only 11% operate job sharing initiatives.

Technology can play a key role in supporting and enabling working mothers. Only 43% of SMBs have the technology in place to allow them to work from home as if in the office. (Not surprisingly, Citrix offer such a system.)

There is a preconception that hiring women can be detrimental to a business, but the opposite is true. A company that supports women in maternity leave and encourages them to work flexibly upon returning to work will benefit from a more highly motivated and loyal staff, with lower levels of absenteeism.

Moreover, a recent study published by The Women and Work Commission asserts that if women’s participation in the labour market is increased, it could be worth up to £23 billion, or 2.0%, of GDP.

Denise Tyler, Editor, Mother@Work, said, ““The changes to the maternity legislation have been designed to help both women and employers. Statutory maternity pay is fully funded by the government and businesses must recognise that giving flexibility to working parents will be rewarded with commitment and loyalty, which will help retain the talents of women within the workforce and save time and money on recruitment and training.””