It used to be that women would stay at home, become the homemaker, raise the children, not work and be in the house constantly.
Nowadays the transition into the modern working Mum is a very different scenario.
But is it fair to the employer to always have to be on the lookout if their employees want to start a family, get paid and eventually leave the team?
The honest approach of telling your boss
I have 30 employees who are predominately young women.
My team who’ve had babies have been honest with me and one in particular has set a brilliant example.
I find it hard to even think about maternity without bursting into a cold sweat at how we’d handle every maternity leave situation that will inevitably occur over the next few years.
In my opinion, there are many reasons as an employer that women are harder to employ.
Firstly, you’re never sure if they’ll come back to work again after having children. Furthermore, it doesn’t make economic sense for them to be honest with you as an employer, even if they think they’ll come back.
It’s better for them to go on maternity leave for a year, come back for a few days, be entitled to their ‘holiday’ for the time they’ve missed and be paid whilst they’re away by you and not the government, and then resign shortly afterwards.
If they told you right at the start of their leave they weren’t coming back then they’d lose this money. So why would they be honest with you?
Secondly, many people want two or more children. Therefore you can have this terrible cross-over of job cover where you keep a position open for when they return from maternity leave. However, the employee often returns and before you know it, they’re pregnant again and begin another break.
Lastly, some women who take a career break to bring up kids for say five years might resent they have been slightly left behind on the pay scale. Some would expect an entitled salary equivalent to their peers who’ve not had the career break.
These women need a reality check. Obviously they’ve not only failed to move their careers forward in these five years, but they will have got a bit left behind too.
Bringing up children might give you useful life experience, but it won’t help you keep up with computer technology advances for example.
Employees also have the right to time off if their child who’s under five, becomes ill. This is helpful but what’s the employer supposed to do without them for this time?
The cost of it all
When one of your employees is pregnant it becomes costly. When they return from maternity leave they’re entitled to holiday for all the time they’ve been absent due to maternity.
In my opinion, this is unfair.
I believe people are entitled to holiday pay paid by their employer, if they have earned this holiday. If the government believes otherwise, then they should contribute. This holiday pay is the number one reason I think women won’t be honest with their employer if they plan not to return.
There are the recruitment costs to cover their maternity leave. This can cost about £1000 in advertising alone plus time interviewing. This is equally hard because although you are looking for somebody temporary, you don’t really know when the employee will return. You’re also well aware they might later announce they aren’t coming back at all. So this can be a hard job to fill.
Imagine the situation where you’ve had somebody off for a year on maternity leave and you keep their position open. If you work in a specialist area like we do, then it’s going to potentially take you many months to train somebody before they can be remotely useful.
So in this time, they’ll have to be trained by the existing employee, and therefore cost twice the wages for this time.
Then the employee with the new baby says they are coming back to work.
You then lose the temporary cover to another job because there’s no longer a position. The person returning then announces they’re leaving because they want more home time more with their child.
So you then have new recruitment costs all over again without much notice.
I remember I had a part-time employee who only worked on Thursdays. It turned out the midwife she wanted only worked Thursdays. I was paying her still to be away for three hours of her one-day a week, which didn’t seem fair to me as the employer because she worked for only one day a week anyway.
Once again, the law didn’t favour the employer in this instance.
To have or to not to have a year away
I have yet to meet a woman who wanted to go straight back to work full-time after her maternity leave. I think most women don’t want a whole year of maternity leave either.
I think most women actually would like is complete maternity leave for say six months, then to come back to work gradually over a further six month period.
After that, I think most women actually want to stay working three days a month part-time if they have this choice. But if they want to be back full-time, this would kick in after that year.
I can’t help wondering if the terror of coming back full-time is actually what puts women off coming back to work at all. Partly the expense of childcare is huge but also because they’d rather spend time with their babies whilst their still young.
The back to work plan
I wonder if things could somehow be made easier for us to employ part-time people without being difficult for us employers. This could be assisted by a back-to-work plan for new mums?
Perhaps they could get a proportion of their maternity leave whilst they begin part-time work to assist the process for a few months.
One tricky thing within the future of our company is our jewellery designers are specifically trained. It takes us about three years to train-up a design graduate to properly take a design commission on perfectly.
And when we’re trying to offer such a ‘Rolls Royce’ service, anything other than perfect just won’t do.
So when one of my designers becomes pregnant, I won’t be able to just advertise for another designer who comes ready-trained to step into the role with only a few weeks of company specific training. It would take me about three years to train somebody within in this role.
This has also meant I’ve had to constantly think about what might happen when our more senior designers become pregnant. I have to ensure the junior employees are trained sufficiently in the hope they can step into the role when the time comes. In a way, this is positive for my business because we are always focusing on investing in our juniors and training them sufficiently and giving them an opportunity.
I imagine a doctor’s surgery, accountants or legal firm is where you can find a maternity cover person more easily because although these roles are specialised, the cover is perhaps not as specialised in a way. But perhaps I believe the grass is greener elsewhere.
Unfortunately, you can’t be a jewellery designer part-time. It’s a full-time role because once you’ve taken on a few commissions, you have to oversee them completely which can’t be done part-time.
So I live in hope my designers will be happy to come back to work full- time after their maternity leave.
As a mum, I’d never stop a woman from having children. But it’s difficult to see how women can get paid for not being there when there’s the chance they may never return.
But it’s difficult for me to comprehend why the employer ends up footing such a bill.
There is so much disruption to the company for these child-bearing years, especially when the employee may never return.
To be continued…