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Antiquated attitudes

Thus saith the EQUALITY AND HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION to its anointed, to the BBC, whose right hand it hath holden, to subdue the unrighteous before it:

Employers still have ‘antiquated attitude to female workers’

Many employers still live in the “dark ages” when it comes to recruiting women, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) says.

In a poll for the EHRC, 36% of employers thought it reasonable to ask a women about plans to have children.

Some 59% agreed that a woman should have to disclose during the recruitment process whether she is pregnant.

The commission said the poll of 1,106 male and female decision-makers showed worrying attitudes.

The EHRC said its study showed that many employers needed more support to better understand the basics of discrimination law and the rights of pregnant women and new mothers.

EHRC chief executive Rebecca Hilsenrath said: “It is a depressing reality that, when it comes the rights of pregnant woman and new mothers in the workplace, we are still living in the dark ages.

“We should all know very well that it is against the law not to appoint a woman because she is pregnant or might become pregnant.

“Yet we also know women routinely get asked questions around family planning in interviews.”

Other findings from the YouGov survey of small, medium and large firms included:

– 46% of employers agreed it was reasonable to ask women if they have young children during the recruitment process

– 44% agree women should work for an organisation for at least a year before deciding to have children
About one third believe that women who become pregnant and new mothers in work are “generally less interested in career progression”

– 41% of employers agreed that pregnancy in the workplace puts “an unnecessary cost burden” on the workplace

– 51% agree there is sometimes resentment towards women who are pregnant or on maternity leave
The EHRC said its survey revealed antiquated beliefs, including two out of five employers saying women who have had more than one child while in the same job can be a “burden” to their team.

20 comments to Antiquated attitudes

  • James Hargrave

    I suppose, on grounds of equality, interviewers should ask male candidates if they are pregnant… Just as I had to declare in one interview that I was not a freemason and so, in theory, did the (all-female) members of the interviewing panel.

    Many of us have undergone ‘equality’ training (attempts at indoctrination) – in which the ‘right’ answers bear no relationship to actuality at all.

  • Thailover

    “46% of employers agreed it was reasonable to ask women if they have young children during the recruitment process”

    Being reasonable isn’t politically correct. These plebeians don’t seem to understand that a woman has “right” to sabotage her would be employer…apparently. of course these are the same people who support unions; that is, the supposed right of workers to bleed to death the company they work for. Much as a parasite bleeds to death The host they have attached themselves to.

  • Alisa

    This whole thing will blow up, one way or another.

  • In the 80s, I heard it very strongly asserted by feminists that you could not ask a woman in a job interview if she was pregnant, or planning soon to become so, “because you could not ask that question of a man” so equality law (their interpretation of) made it a crime to do so.

    However these days, given identity politics’ radical reinterpretation of words like ‘man’ and ‘woman’, would it not be appalling prejudice to claim that you could not ask that question of a ‘man’?

    Someone really should point out to the “Equality and Human Rights Commission” that it is their attitudes that are now antiquated.

    (Someone should also remind the Equality and Human Rights Commission that they were the organisation that invented the word ‘islamophobia’, thus allowing many an antiquated attitude to be reappraised as the latest in PC fashion.)

  • llamas

    I’ll reiterate what I have said here before – in 35+ years of working as an engineer, I have known quite-a-few female engineers, some good, some bad, no different than other engineers are.

    Of those women, perhaps two dozen in all, only two worked continuously at their careers. All the others left their work for extended periods to have children, and the majority never returned to full-time employment. And one of the two who stayed working – well, let’s just say that a husband and children were not part of her plans.

    As it happens, I am working now with a woman I worked with in the early 90s, who left her career in her late twenties to have two children and returned after almost 20 years to full-time employment as an engineer. She maintained her skills, took some catch-up classes, and has successfully transitioned back into her career. But she’s 20 years behind. And she is the glaring exception – one out of 25.

    So, based on my experience, an employer who employs a woman in her twenties or thirties stands a very-high chance that she will leave her job for an extended period in the near future, and it’s more-likely-than-not that she will never come back to work. This may not be an issue for cashiers at the supermarket or admins at the National Insurance offices, but this is no way to run any sort of business that involves extensive training and highly-developed skills. This can only make women less-attractive as candidates for employment and will lead to reduced employment of women. The realities of nature will not be denied. This is not ‘antiquated’, it is realistic. I would love to see some statistics on the true behaviours of women in the workforce.



  • CaptDMO

    OTOH, perhaps 4000 year old “antiquated” ideas, reinforced time and again, are far superior to “progressive social re-experimentation” ones.

  • bobby b

    The problem lies in considering pregnancy to be a medical disability. There are so many options available to women now to avoid pregnancy – effective methods of birth control, abstinence, abortion – that it is more correct to consider pregnancy to be a choice that a woman has made. It can no longer be considered a fortuitous and discriminatory health problem.

    Women can remain as barren as men if they so desire. A woman who becomes pregnant makes a choice. The choice should be hers – but the consequences should also be hers.

    I’d compromise by not allowing the questions listed above concerning planned or present pregnancy – but I would allow the employment to be terminated at the employer’s option should the woman then become pregnant and go on leave. The main cost to an employer resulting from a pregnant employee lies in the fact that the employee is going to disappear for some period of time, and the employer is usually prohibited from terminating the employment, and must simply maintain the unfilled position until the woman returns. Remove that cost, place the burden of choosing pregnancy on the person who makes the choice, and stop treating a voluntary decision as a disability.

    The simple fact that a woman has children should not be cause for denying employment. She can still find ways to be an effective employee – her husband can be the main “parent”, daycare is available – but, again, if she cannot perform her job due to having children, the burden should be on her, as she is the one making choices.

    Single mom? Bad life choice. But it was her life choice. Maybe such a policy would make that bad choice less popular.

  • Fred Z

    antiquated ideas seems to be a weird way to describe ‘reality’.

    Oh well, reality always wins, it just takes time occasionally.

  • What’s antiquated about struggling to afford the cost of emplpoying someone and having to pay for their career break to raise kids. The State could make money lost that way tax refundable….. Not that I don’t already pay enough for other people’s children

  • Itellyounothing and others,

    I believe that in the UK most of the maternity pay paid out by the employer is refundable from the state. But it doesn’t cover all the costs, nor the sheer inconvenience of finding a temporary replacement to whom you can’t offer the job even if they turn out really well – or at least not until the woman on maternity leave decides to formally give up on returning. Which I know from personal experience frequently doesn’t happen until after she has the baby. If the employer is the state, as it was in my case, or a big corporation, it is easy for them to absorb the costs and uncertainty, but for a small business with only two or three employees it could be a disaster. I have seen a good many surveys like this and it was often noticeable that female employers were more concerned about the bad effects of hiring a woman who quickly becomes pregnant than male employers were. Either they were more cynical about their fellow women, or they were more willing to admit to “antiquated attitudes”.

  • the other rob

    Either they were more cynical about their fellow women, or they were more willing to admit to “antiquated attitudes”.

    I know that SWMBO was pissed when a new hire at her office went on maternity leave just weeks after completing training, leaving the rest of them to shoulder the added workload.

  • Mr Ed

    I believe that in the UK most of the maternity pay paid out by the employer is refundable from the state.

    Yes this is correct, it depends on the size of the employer’s payroll, but large employers can offset 92% of the cost against their National Insurance contributions (i.e. their payroll social security tax) and smaller ones offset 103% (so they make a technical profit on it).

    But help is at hand, as it is not just women with infants who can ask for flexible working on their return to work (a refusal can be justified). Any employee with 26 weeks service can apply for a contract variation to change aspects of their job, e.g. reduced or varied hours, a change of place of work. And the employer is obliged to grant the request unless a specified reason for refusal applies. As you can imagine, this delights employers in the hospitality industry who need people working weekends.

    The oxymoron of a ‘statutory right’ to demand a ‘contract variation’ is barely noticed.

  • Laird

    bobby b, I would agree with that with one small reservation: there is a not-insignificant cost in hiring and training a replacement worker, so simply firing a woman who decides to have a baby doesn’t completely resolve the issue. But it certainly would be a start.

    As has been noted, granting extended maternity leave and holding the job open is much less a problem for large companies, and if the position is a low-level one (which, in fairness, is often the case with the young women who are the ones most likely to get pregnant). For a smaller company, asking whether an applicant is pregnant or is planning to become so is an entirely reasonable thing to do (just as would be asking a male applicant if he was planning to take an extended leave any time soon). One must plan for staffing needs, and if the position could withstand an extended absence perhaps it isn’t really needed at all. To the extent we must have these rules (which is debatable), they should apply only to the largest companies (those with 1,000 or more employees) and not at all to senior positions (which cannot tolerate an extended absence). Of course, women in such senior positions are unlikely to be of childbearing age, but that should be the rule nonetheless.

  • bobby b

    A story:

    I once hired a woman to be my paralegal’s assistant. (In my two-person office, which she made into a three-person office, this was a glorified secretary.)

    Our health insurance program became operative for new hires after 60 days from hire. On the 62nd day, she informed me that her slight pudginess was an impending pregnancy, and that she was happy to see that our insurer covered delivery and new child nicely.

    I fired her on the spot. I informed our insurer and told them to do whatever they wished but that I would be paying no premiums for her. They agreed with my decision.

    She went to the State. I got one paper review telling me I had to rehire her, hold her position for her, and pay her premiums.

    I appealed. Because my business was so small and her timing seemed (?!) suspicious, I won.

    It would have shut me down.

  • Mr Ed

    bobby b

    If you were practising in England today and did that, it could easily cost you around the equivalent of $35,000 in damages.

    There would be no permissible exception, however small or fragile your business.

  • Mary Contrary

    These questions are phrased in terms of what’s “reasonable”, so it seems as though the employers were surveyed on the moral, rather than legal question.

    I would have thought that most employers would understand that none of those things are legal. I certainly do, and would never dream of asking an employee or prospective employee of the company I work for any of those things. But I would tell a survey researcher (if promised anonymity to shield me from reprisals) that all those things are reasonable. Nobody ever promised that the law would be reasonable; the law is quite famously an ass. Nor am I required to agree with the law, only to obey it.

    To my mind, applying for a job, holding yourself out as being willing and available to take on work, while already pregnant and therefore knowing you will shortly become unavailable, but concealing this from the employer who will have to pay for this, that’s fraud. Legally protected fraud, but fraud nonetheless.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Mary nails it.

  • Paul Marks

    If only we had a Conservative government – they would get rid of the “Equality and Human Rights Commission”. A free country, under the non aggression principle of the Common Law, would not have such a body.

    Who someone employs and does not employ, and who someone trades and does not trade with, and on what terms – is up to the freely contracting parties. In a free country.


  • staghounds

    Weren’t biological differences between people voted out of existence back around 1972?