Why are women still getting ‘pregnant then screwed’?

My thoughts on how to reduce maternity discrimination.

Another week has gone by and more reports are being published showing how working women are being treated like crap when they are pregnant or on maternity leave, only to become victim to a pay gap with their male colleagues once they return to work.

This really annoys me. Particularly women who are sacked, made redundant, demoted etc just because they have pushed out or are due to push out a baby. This is illegal and needs to stop.

Yes, I understand that for some organisations (particularly small businesses), the cost of maternity pay could have an impact, especially if they need to pay for additional cover. BUT that doesn’t mean we make it ok for any business not to employ women of childbearing age, or treat them like rubbish. Nor does it mean we should just accept there isn’t a place for us in the workplace after we’ve given birth aka comtributing to the future of the human race. 

What it means is that we clearly need a more equal view in our approach to parental leave and responsibilities. Society’s mentality towards leave and parenting is outdated, still in a time where women didn’t have professional roles and fathers weren’t as hands on. But times have changed. Women are pursuing or already in senior, demanding careers (God forbid) and many fathers actually spend time with their children (shock horror!). But the ‘system’ doesn’t acknowledge this.

Let me explain. At the moment our maternity system is very much that, maternal. Focussed on solely the mother. She is allowed to take time off for medical appointments, without question. She gets paid to take time off caring for a newborn. If a father wants to take significant time off, he might get funny looks from an employer and he’ll have to accept a drop in pay. Not the best move at a time when finances are already be impacted by nappies and wipes (and coffee and cake for mum lol). So it makes sense for mother to take more time off (up to a year), leaving her with a gap in her career, which according to statistics will impact her financially for life,  whilst dad continues to work, progressing his career to bring home the proverbial bacon.

And in most cases, this then continues once she has returned to work as she is the primary care giver. She takes the pay cut to work part time, leaves the office early when a child is sick etc etc. And employers kind of expect it. Some embrace it – ‘that’s her being a mum’ they accept. Some use it as an excuse to treat women differently which is down right wrong. Either way, all employers need to respect the fact that fathers are parents too! Make it acceptable, in fact the norm, for a dad to leave the office at 430 to do the nursery pick up or ask if they can do a conference call from home to nurse a sick child.

Now, imagine if both parents received the same pay for leave? They could split the leave, reducing the ‘time out’ of work for either parent, but ensuring they bring in some kind of income, meaning the onus isn’t on any one parent. I know that the right to shared has been introduced in the UK, but statistics show that take up has been very low. But we shouldn’t give up on it. If we got to a stage where this was the norm, employers wouldn’t or couldn’t discriminate against workers just for being parents. They wouldn’t have many people left in their books!

If you haven’t heard of the wonderful Joeli Brearley, check out her amazing campaign, Pregnant then Screwed. It really is an eye opener into the number of working mothers being discriminated against. But she is actually helping women to challenge their employers and supporting them in the process. Positive action! Thankfully I haven’t had such experiences, but it really is sad that in the 21st century, this is such an issue. What’s more sad is that it’s getting worse. 

But I think it fans, and will get better. It will take time. It will take a lot of effort. It will take mothers to stand up against discrimination to hold bad employers to account. It will take fathers to use their right for shared leave and make it known to their employers that they actually want to parent! It will take the government to make discrimination tribunals cheaper and easier. And it will take the rest of us to provide support for our friends and family in these situations.

Then maybe less of us will be screwed. 

 

Fathers, Thank You. 


It’s Fathers’ Day! A chance to celebrate all the daddies out there. 

So much time is spent making martyrs of us ‘busy mums’, we often forget just how much dads contribute. Dads are busy too!! So many do a great job and I’m not just talking about the ones who happen to have made the babies. 

There are plenty of strong father figures out there: biological, spiritual, pastoral, financial, it doesn’t matter. Today is their day.

If you know a man who’s doing positive things for the next generation, today’s the day to tell them. 

Today is the day to say thank you. 

Thank you dads xx

Let’s hear it for the boys (well men, but that’s not the title of a song) 

I want to give a massive shout out to all the fathers out there. Early parenthood focuses so much on mums and babies that these guys are so often ignored. When they are spoken about, there’s often a moan about not feeding or changing baby at the exact time according to the routine. Or not knowing baby prefers mango to bananas. Its so negative.

Generally speaking, as mothers we generally spend so much more time with babies during the first few months. It makes sense for us to know their little habits and preferences inside and out. Everything we’ve learned is a result of countless hours of trial and let’s face it, error. Yet for some reason we expect our other halves to have picked up that knowledge in half the time. Very few new dads do things wrong, they just do them differently.

So dads, I want to thank you:

  • For trying to get up at night when baby wakes, even if he’s been fed and changed by the time you get up (at least you made an effort)
  • For doing a full day’s work after a broken night’s sleep. Whilst we can drown our sorrows in Starbucks’s finest with other mums, you have to keep your shit together because a meltdown by the coffee machine just wouldn’t go down well
  • For the cups of tea
  • For giving older siblings a TV/gaming marathon to keep them entertained whilst we rest
  • For getting baby dressed every now and then. The outfit might not be an exact copy of what I saw in the Gap advert, but he’s washed and dressed. I’ll just have to take the photo next time
  • For trying to put a smile on our faces after a rubbish day
  • For playing silly games with baby, even when we think it’s nap time. Sometimes it’s ok to just have fun and ignore the routine
  • For not judging us when we crack open a bottle of red the moment you walk through the door on a Friday (well maybe Thursday) evening
  • For the subtle and not so subtle reminders that a diet of coffee, cake and wine isn’t going to get the post-baby body we dream of
  • For loving that post-baby body, for all its stretched wobbliness
  • For putting up with our irrational reactions and emotions, even when you have no idea what we are going on about

Thank you for just trying. This roller coaster called parenting is pretty scary stuff, but you holding our hands (sometimes reluctantly) makes it that little bit easier.

X

(All experiences based on my own!)