Doubling maternity leave

The UBP has pledged to consider doubling maternity leave if elected, but will it do more harm than good?  It’s a nice thought for making pregnancy easier for mothers, especially single mothers but what are the implications?   How will it impact businesses?  What will it do to the stature of women in the workplace and their earning potential?  What of women who bear no children?  Will doubling maternity leave do more harm than good?

In a recent announcement by the Opposition United Bermuda Party, they pledged that if elected, they would consider doubling maternity leave.

The UBP would institute programmes designed to help people at key stages in life, beginning before birth, with maternity leave.

The UBP would consider legislation to extend paid maternity leave to six months, set up two additional Government-run affordable day care centres for a total of three and subsidize the cost of day care up to pre-school ages.

Doubling maternity leave is a great gesture which will likely go a long way in building support from the feminine voter base, but what are the implications?

How will doubling maternity leave impact businesses?  Unfortunately, modifying legislation to force businesses to support 6 month maternity leaves places undue hardship on businesses, especially small businesses.  According to the August 2007 edition of Labour Market Indicators, the median annual salary of women in our workforce for 2006 was $48,848.  When combined with the average number of children of 2.4 noted for women aged 45 and over by the 2000 Census, we can compare how much maternity leave costs the average business in 3 month and 6 month durations.

Presently, at maternity leave lasting 3 months in duration, women can roughly be estimated to cost a business 7.2 months worth of salary in maternity leave assuming they work for one business throughout their working life.  At even just the median annual income of $48,848, that equates to $29,308.8 that the average business spends on maternity leave on every woman.  For a small business that employs many women, that number quickly adds up.  When considering a doubling of maternity leave to 6 months in duration, or 14.4 months over the lifetime of the average woman, that equates to $58,617.6, which is more than a years salary, in added costs for any business that hires your average woman which adds up very quickly for small businesses.

What will doubling maternity leave do to discrimination against women?  Will it encourage pay discrimination and make small businesses less likely to hire and promote women?  Just as Newton’s 3rd law suggests that every action shall have an equal and opposite reaction, so can we presume that extended maternity leave will likely yield undesired consequences.

According to the 2007 Labour Market Indicators women earned $3,512, nearly 7% less, in median annual gross earnings than men annually.  When considering that education level and job roles may well play a factor in that number, the question does arise of what factor the potential of losing an employee to maternity leave contributes to overall compensation.  If the average business spends $29,308.8 on a woman in maternity leave over, lets assume, a 40 year work life, that equates to $732.72 a year in costs to the business which may well contribute to the differential in pay between men and women.  If we consider what would occur when maternity leave is doubled, that could equate to $1465.44 per year in costs to the business.  If the business is forced to pay an extra $732.72 per woman, will that translate directly into a 20% increase in the differential of pay between men and women?  Would it also discourage smaller businesses from taking on the risk of hiring and promoting women out of fear of losing them for 6 months each time they opt to have a child?  What of women who have no children who are unduly punished with less pay while not contributing to a company’s loss?

The UBP has pledged to consider doubling maternity leave if elected, but will it do more harm than good?  It’s a nice thought for making pregnancy easier for mothers, especially single mothers but what are the implications?   Will it have an impact on businesses, especially small businesses?  What will it do to the stature of women in the workplace and their earning potential?  What of women how have few or no children and the implications in increased discrimination?  Will doubling maternity leave do more harm than good?

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Mike Taylor
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Mike Taylor

Sounds old fashioned and poorly thought-out to me. Why not just institute paternity leave? This would have the similar effect for families if each parent could take 3 months leave in turn. It would also have the effect of being equitable while maternity-leave-only policies can be considered discriminatory. Of course, if the father is nowhere to be found, as happens all too often, the child would be better off with a mother with an extended maternity leave. The same child would be done no favors by having a mother with reduced earning potential either, and making men and women employees… Read more »

harry
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harry

DID I HEAR THE UBP ??????
Say anything about GOVERMENT WASTE , curbing it,and it must have been so loud,
‘A TAX CUT’
Are we going to have the same old tax and spend??????
Less tax ,less goverment ,makes it cheaper to live in bermuda.
This is not a new idea,everyone seems to be into how to spend money that is not even theirs.How about first off some accountability.where did the 800 million dollars go??????

Reality Check
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Reality Check

Where I come from the bare minimum maternity leave is 6 months (not all on full pay mind you) and soon to extend to one year, so does most of Western Europe. Bermuda has all its public holiday/leave regulations mixed up. Following the US maternity leave system is not popular amongst working women I can tell you. It is NO HOLIDAY being at home with a young baby (in my case we had spent the previous 10 weeks in hospital as he came 8 weeks early). It is far harder than a day at the office. Three months is in… Read more »

Denis Pitcher
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Reality Check,
Ok, say it is extended to a year. How do you feel that will impact equality of pay and the likelyhood for advancement of women, especially women who opt to have no children? Further, what solutions do you propose that addresses all three issues of maternity leave, equality in the workplace, and financial hardship incurred by small businesses?

Mike Taylor
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Mike Taylor

Reality Check, I’m not sure what we are supposed to be talking about here but I am talking about paid leave. My knowledge of the hardship of parenthood is limited but I don’t see how that is relevant to the issue of who should pay for that hardship. How much do you think it should cost your boss for you to have a baby? If we are talking unpaid leave then I would have no problem with legislation ensuring that jobs are held for parents for up to two years or even longer. Does anyone know if the UBP is… Read more »

Tryangle
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It’s a big deal, doubled maternity leave time. Denis raises good points. Paternity leave as well was mentioned by Mike Taylor and personally I’m not happy at all with my employer’s policy of a maximum 1 week leave.
It’s going to be hard though, convincing businesses to go with mandatory 6 months’ maternity for new mothers. Small businesses may be forced to fold or change recruiting, while big business may decide to move elsewhere.
Then again I would wager the whole suggestion as electioneering anyway.

Mike Taylor
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Mike Taylor

To tell the truth my preference would be for no legislated burden to the employer, other than that to hold a job for new parents. I would much rather see something like a national plan which all employees pay into to help support new parents up to their second child. Funny thing about ideas like that though, they just don’t have the same clout with voters as freebies, and if your going to throw around freebies its waaaay easier to do it with someone else’s money!

MsCutePants
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The most crucial year for a baby is its first year – a time a baby bonds with its mother or father. A time that is equally important for parents as well. This is the future generation we are talking about & so wouldn’t it be worth it if mothers or fathers do get to stay at home with their baby for six months to a year. Canada has mat or paternity leave slated at one year, paid at 60% Some countries in Europe are even more so. Why is it that the impact on business are considered? With all… Read more »

Denis Pitcher
Guest

MsCutePants, Don’t shoot the messenger. I’ve just asked the questions that should also matter. While certainly I can attempt to understand the perspective of mothers I can never truly understand because I’ll never be one and I do appreciate that. However, one must as the question of where do you draw the line? Is it 3 months, 6 months, 1 year, 2 years, 5 years, 20 years? A lifetime? In reality, the first year may be crucial for development but critical mental and psychological development continues throughout childhood so where do you draw the line of acceptability in terms of… Read more »

Denis Pitcher
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Oh, and I missed Mike’s other suggestion of a national plan rather than legislated burden on employers

Denis Pitcher
Guest

You also make a good points on your post:
Expat work permit extension to cover leave?
55% for Canada
There is also the question of being fiscally responsible when it comes to having a child, which should be encouraged by all regardless of whether there is any leave offered.

Kneesox
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Kneesox

Denis, I think one’s view on this may change with age. I know mine has. When I was in my early 20’s, single with no kids, I have to admit that climbing that corporate ladder was #1. Oh we all said “work-life balance is important” but we all knew that the people who were getting ahead were working 60 hours/week. Time changes everything and my wife and I (both chartered accountants)…we work to live and NOT live to work. Many of are friends are highly educated professionals and it is interesting to see how both the men and the women… Read more »

ken
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ken

I would like to know what the business community, and small business owners think about this. If the PLP govt had suggested this i am sure the Chamber of Commerce, and ABIR, and other special interest groups would be crying fowl, how the government is just making a decision without consulting them.
However, maybe there is no need to cry fowl because they realize it won’t come to fruition as the UBP won’t win.

Denis Pitcher
Guest

Kneesox, My intention isn’t to discredit the legitimacy of the legislation, simply question it’s impact from all angles. Stop and look at my perspective for a second. I’m 26, single, male and I work for an exempt company. Thus, I’d in no way be impacted by this legislation and it’ll be quite some time before I will ever be. So, because I have no ties and nothing to gain from the legislation, I have the ability to approach it with objective reasoning. Sure, it’s easy to look from the perspective of a parent and say businesses will adapt. But what… Read more »

Reality Check
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Reality Check

No one posting here has an objective argument. Because we are all human we all have subjective responses. Denis, I am a 40-year old career woman having a break after a difficult time with my first baby. I have worked in the insurance industry for 20 years and I have managed teams of people aged 18-60. My point is that is is a statutory right for women to have time off from their paid jobs when they have a baby. I have dealt with those absences as a manager and it is quite right that women are protected as they… Read more »

Tryangle
Guest

We had a couple at my workplace who had a beautiful young girl, but what happened after the maternity leave expired for the mother, the father decided to become a stay-at-home dad and let the mother return to work. He sacrificed income to do this. Probably would have been more fair if he had been offered a comparable leave period as well. Just a thought since family situations vary among couples (and singles of course).