In the complex world of maternity leave, the CBI have urged government to consider increasing maternity pay from the current 39 weeks to 52 weeks and offer 15 hours a week of free childcare for all children aged 1 to 4 years old.
Whilst this would seem a bit of a turnaround from the CBI’s previous position when they stated that an extension to maternity leave would ‘unfairly burden businesses’, their current rationale is that more needs to be done to attract women into careers, which would thereby strengthen the UK economy overall.
An increase in maternity pay is welcomed as an incentive to help women return to work and stay in employment. But it’s a difficult balance to achieve when you run a company as this could have an significant impact on small businesses who could be disproportionately affected. And what about pregnancy discrimination? Would this mean a potential increased risk of discrimination for pregnant employees?
We should carefully consider anything that supports women returners and also supports childcare arrangements. Given that the rules around maternity pay, leave and shared parental leave are unnecessarily complicated, we would do well by reviewing and streamlining these to make it easier for staff and businesses as well as supporting a culture of shared child care and parenting responsibilities.