"Family-friendly" has become a cliché for a direction of political travel, which politicians have accustomed the voters to expect. So it would be a brave politician who questioned the most well-established plank of family-friendly policy - maternity leave.The problem is actually more serious than the article makes it appear. The UK has created a perverse incentive system where the woman is provided significant incentive to lie about her intention to return to the workforce after the year's leave, thus forcing the company to pay for the entire year when everyone knows she isn't coming back. This not only forces the company to spend around £6000 in addition to her six-week 90 percent leave, but prevents them from making any plans to replace her until one year after she has left the job.
Under present UK law, women who give birth can take up to a year’s maternity leave, for six weeks of which they are paid 90pc of their usual salary, though after that the rules vary and it’s around £135 a week or less.
However, maternity leave is creating a great burden on many women and businesses. The legislation puts employers off employing women. Companies are reluctant to give jobs to women of childbearing age.
Not only that, but as long as she can get a simple note from her doctor, a woman can stop showing up to work once she's pregnant and still get paid her regular salary before she goes on maternity leave. Now, while it's understandable that women will be tempted to take advantage of this legalized theft, what sort of message does it send about the woman's character to her co-workers and employers? It's not merely men who resent the fact that one of their co-workers can take advantage of up to 15 months paid vacation. And how does it benefit women to create such a strong disincentive to hire women who are of an age and situation where pregnancy is a reasonable possibility?
Society needs women to bear children; without them doing so, it will eventually cease to exist. But how can anyone look at the situation and credibly insist that the material gains of doubling the size of the female workforce - remember, one-third of women always worked - have been worth the material costs?