From Monday’s Scotsman:
MOTHERS often feel “shoved aside” in the workplace because they have had children, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has warned.
He said the problem was “far too common” and was not only unfair but also bad for the economy.
The Liberal Democrat leader said there was a need to dramatically change working practices to adapt to the realities of modern family life.
Mr Clegg’s comments came as a survey showed three quarters of women who returned to work after having a child thought it made it harder to progress in their career.
He went on to say:
It is sadly still far too common for women to feel shoved aside at work because they’ve decided to have children.
Aside from the obvious unfairness, it’s also bad for our economy, which means everybody ends up losing out.
There are many employers out there who do understand the need to retain the best staff and who want to help families better balance work and home. The companies being recognised today set a shining example.
Modern families come in every thinkable shape and size. In many cases mothers want to work and fathers want to spend more time at home.
We need to dramatically update our working practices to accommodate these realities, helping families juggle their lives as they see fit.
That is why from April 2015, the coalition government is introducing shared parental leave to ensure career options remain open to women after pregnancy.
Nick’s remarks were obviously to highlight the Liberal Democrat shared parental leave scheme which will be implemented from 2015. This should tackle some of the discrimination that women face in the workplace after having children. Helena Morrissey, who wrote the report on the Party’s processes and procedures earlier this year, said in a Women’s Hour interview back in April that she ended up leaving her job after her employer doubted her commitment simply because she’d had a baby.
While shared parental leave is important, it will take a while to have an impact. I thought it might be an idea to have a debate about what other barriers women, or indeed parents, face in the workplace and what can be done to resolve them. Employers and professional bodies can be remarkably inflexible and unpragmatic about their working practices. One friend of mine once went through all sorts of agonies with her professional body who insisted that a particular qualification could only be achieved by full-time working, which was an option that didn’t work for her. She had to fight to get to do it on reduced hours over a longer period.
Of course, shared parental leave is not the only thing that the Government has brought in which will affect parents’ career prospects. Extending the right to flexible working to everyone will also help make the playing field more level.
What else could or should be done to take down the barriers women with children face in the workplace? What about tackling the culture of presenteeism, the idea that to be effective you have to be in the office from dawn until way beyond dusk? That would surely help everyone’s wellbeing. Tell us your ideas in the comments.
* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings