Britain hasn’t gotten the memo that feminism is dead and women and men are really equal now. Its Equal Opportunities Commission has found that there is acute discrimination against pregnant women in England, Wales, and Scotland. Each year, 30,000 pregnant women are fired for being pregnant in Britain, and 200,000 face some form of discrimination.
The EOC suggests a solution that would charitably be described as excessively moderate.
Ms Watson called for a package of measures to aid pregnant workers and employers including:
- A written statement of maternity rights and employer responsibilities, with a tear-off slip for the woman’s employer
- Employers to have the right to ask pregnant employees to give a clear indication of when they intend to return to work
- Financial support for businesses
In response, Stephen Alambritis of the Federation of Small Business, welcomed the idea of employers being able to ask workers for a return-to-work date.
“What we would like to see is an acknowledgement that there are problems for smaller firms, and that we need to think imaginatively about how to help those small employers”, he told BBC News.
The glaring problem here is that there is no country with a workable maternity leave policy. All existing policies either do too little or give workplaces incentives to discriminate against women. All the three items the EOC suggests are too mild, but can be improved on to be given teeth. Here are a few more sweeping proposals:
1. Mandatory reporting of hiring and firing by any business with more than, say, 20 employees; in particular, businesses must clearly indicate whether people hired or fired are members of any protected class – women, pregnant women, racial minorities, homosexuals, etc. Any business whose hiring and firing practices are significantly discriminatory at the 1% confidence level (which may be increased to 5% if this is too ineffective) will be subject to special investigation.
2. An increase in the budget going toward enforcement of equal rights laws, in accordance with what is needed to enforce #1.
3. A national education campaign that stresses that victims of workplace discrimination should come forward, and have a right to sue for damages (and if they don’t, Parliament should give them that right).
4. Imposition of quotas on businesses that repeatedly violate equal rights laws, and, progressively, egregious fines and finally liquidation (with due process, of course).
5. On the carrot side, tax cuts for businesses that comply with equal rights laws, in particular those that make an effort to reach out to women and minorities, as opposed to only engaging in gender-blind, color-blind hiring and firing.
6. State-funded pregnancy and parental leave. For example, women should be entitled to, at a minimum, 11 weeks at the end of the pregnancy and 6 after giving birth, with governmental benefits at 200 pounds per week plus 50% of the difference between £200/week and the woman’s weekly salary, up to a maximum benefit of £1,000/week. Any further parental leave must be gender-neutral, and give set amounts of time to each parent as opposed to letting them distribute their time between them in any way they like.
(Via Liberal Debutante, who for some reason says 300,000 women lose their jobs every year because of pregnancy, as opposed to 30,000)