Sunday, August 19, 2012


Maternity Pay is a big problem for employers

Just been on BBC Telly talking about Statutory Maternity Pay (Sunday Morning Live, BBC1) to make points supporting a woman Apprentice winner (Katie Hopkins) that employers get a bad deal from the current system re women employees and maternity. After all, she rammed home: a baby is what the woman employee wants and is nothing at all to do with an employer like her. Indeed. Neither is it anything much to do with the wider community, being a purely personal decision (if not a pretty selfish one); a woman's partnership with a man she selects being pointedly the exclusion of others.
     A fairly narrow topic for yours truly, admittedly, but they approached me and so I obliged.
     As usual, the standard lame position is the scientifically illiterate failure to understand the deep sex differences -- that are actual dichotomies -- and a pretence that humans are a unisex. This flies in the face of by far the most comprehensive research on women and work, at the LSE (Hakim: several major recent books, papers) showing that 85%-90% of women view work as just one part of life – and very much a subsidiary part -- so that they do not have an attitude to work akin typically to that of men, who usually do (and want to) work full-time and continuously. The upshot is that at the end of the 52 weeks SMP, many women just say they have changed their mind and now don't want to return to work at all, or to do so only part-time.
     This is bad enough for the employer, but there is also a huge perverse incentive through SMP not being means-tested. Most women have a working partner at home, and in consequence any benefits to which they may be entitled in principle are means-tested away. SMP, by contrast, is £135 a week for a whole year on top of everything the other half brings in through work.
     The Government recognises a 'moral jeopardy' here in setting qualifying time periods to ensure that no woman can claim if she was already pregnant upon starting work; but to get round this all a woman has to do is to wait to stop using contraception until about the time she starts work. It's not as if getting pregnant is not fairly easy to control. In this way, a woman (a couple) who has decided to start a family can take a job not in good faith but so as to exploit the system. She works just six months and then gets a whole year of substantial support from the taxpayer to top-up income for her household even if it is already well above the equivalent of any combined benefits levels.
     Employers are aware of all this – eventually through experience if not from the off -- and are bound to look askance at women prospective employees; so the generous taxpayers' money given by the Government to women actually serves to undermine the position of women generally in the workplace.
     The trouble is that this sort of perverse incentive is often evident at the male/female interface, where the Government appears to act as if women are all 'sugar and spice' and would never take advantage of such low-hanging fruit. Not that any such thing would be offered to a man: the assumption would be that the 'slugs and snails' would race to the trough. This of course is entirely lost on the incredulous BBC.
     To make these obvious and clear-cut points is – need I trouble to say -- to attract the usual lame kneejerk of 'sexism' -- cf; 'racism' and the other spurious -isms. Sure enough, so responds the self-appointed faux-spokesboy for the 'working class' (and actually a PC zealot) now predictably working for The Independent, Owen Jones. And the Apprentice media wallpaper cowardly sucked up to the PC imperative by citing "views like that", as if major LSE research and an all-too-apparent perverse incentive could be mere opinion. No opportunity for comeback was provided by the BBC, of course.

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