Afraid to Ask About Maternity Leave?


A survey conducted by Glassdoor, a career community that helps people find employment, has suggested that all is not well when it comes to women and pregnancy in the workplace. Confusion around maternity procedures and the benefits that may follow are causing women not to enquire about their entitlements.

Thinking of maternity leave

Do You Know Your Entitlements?

A total of 1,000 working women were surveyed by the company, half had already taken maternity leave and the other half had plans to do so in the future. Out of all the women surveyed, only a third were given information about maternity benefits when they started their job.

Many women are starting new positions with no knowledge of the maternity benefits available to them. A Solicitor at Simpson Millar LLP commented on the story, "Employers must change their attitude by making this information more readily available, showing a more positive attitude towards women undertaking maternity leave and not leaving them in fear that if they become pregnant."

Half of the women thought that being clear on maternity benefits should be compulsory for all organisations from the very beginning of the recruitment process. If this were the case, it may lessen the awkwardness some women feel asking about it and it would make the employer appear more transparent.

But what are the reasons an employer would stay quiet on the subject?

Is Money The Issue?

You may think that the reason employers seem reluctant to reveal maternity leave benefits is down to the effect it will have on their business cost wise. Employers can recover most of the statutory maternity pay they give out back from the government, but women are still afraid to ask. If you're a small business that pays less than £45,000 in Class 1 for National Insurance contributions, an employer can claim 103% of maternity pay costs back.

Despite all of this, many employers are not clear about what they can offer in terms of maternity benefits.

Only 2 in 5 would ask for information on maternity benefits if they were pregnant, but the topic needs to be brought up before this point in time. They went on to say "women will not be able to access the information they need and will not be able to request changes without anxiety when returning to work after maternity leave" if they're reluctant to bring the subject up.

Worryingly, 4 out of 5 women thought that asking about maternity benefits during an interview would risk their chances of landing the job, as opposed to asking about other benefits such as holiday allowance, pensions or healthcare. Almost a third of them thought it would hinder their career progression.

More Action Must Be Taken

It's clear that more needs to be done to make women aware of their rights when it comes to maternity leave and benefits. Recent pushes to change paternity leave and laws allowing parents to share their leave have also attempted to address the problems women and men face when asking about leave connected to pregnancy or children.

They conclude, "Despite there being protection for this kind of discrimination in the workplace, the survey shows that women are still afraid to ask their employers about maternity benefits because they feel they cannot pursue a career whilst also being mothers. Not only is this a disadvantage for these employees but employers could also be losing talented employees."

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