Steve Hilton has suggested axing maternity pay. No, I’m not joking: I saw the story in the FT, but that’s unfortunately stuck behind a paywall, so here’s the version from the Mail. Usual warnings apply to the comments.
The article includes a quote from a “Whitehall insider” saying ‘Steve thinks maternity rights are the biggest obstacle to women finding work.’
This is a subject of particular interest right now, as someone close to me is going through the “finding a job whilst being in possession of both a womb and a heterosexual inclination” palaver. Sure enough, the prospect of an employee needing actual, you know, rights is something that puts employers off. The temptation, Alan-Sugar-style, is just not to touch women in their 20s and 30s with a bargepole.
But that does not equate to maternity rights being an obstacle to women finding work.
The obstacle is this: that there is a presumption that women (all women) are nurturing caring creatures who want babies. Not all women do. The presumption that women (and only women) will be carers for those children. Dads can parent just as well. The presumption that maternity leave is a ‘holiday.’ The general dismissiveness with which childbirth, childcare and child raising are treated, as though those who do those important jobs are children themselves.
Don’t scrap maternity rights, Steve. Push paternity rights. Someone has to care for the next generation (the ones who are going to pay your pension, remember?) but the obstacle to women finding work is the presumption that it will have to be them.