I’ve been meaning to post about this for a while but, you know, I couldn’t be bothered…
A few weeks ago the Guardian ran a survey of maternity and paternity benefits offered by different companies and even though there’s not a chance in hell of me ever squeezing a baby out of – well, there – I read it with interest. And then there was the comment section talking about the companies that refused to take part or even dismissed the whole exercise as ridiculous. Many of the responses to the article were aghast that anyone could possibly find it a bit odd that a company would refuse to disclose their maternity benefits and took issue with the implication that a lack of disclosure probably means shitty rights, or nothing above the legal minimum. And in fact, why should any company give its employees anything above the legal minimum? These women disappear for months on end leaving other poor schmucks to cover for them, who the hell do they think they are?
Well, companies don’t have to take part in those other employer surveys – The Times‘s or Fortune‘s Best Companies to Work For lists, top 50 companies for diversity, etc etc ad infinitum – yet they fall over themselves to do so. What large company doesn’t want to see themselves highly ranked on those things? I hear over and over again, working as I do for MegaCorp Inc., that the ‘war for talent’ is the biggest issue for companies at the moment – an accolade like that and it’s free recruitment advertising! Woohoo!
‘Diversity’ is another big buzzword but does have a smidgeon of actual sense behind it. If you want to get the biggest range of ideas, the ability to appeal to the broadest customer base, if you really want people to break down the staid bastion of corporate indolence or create a vibrant organisation brimming with energy, you need employees from different class and ethnic backgrounds, as well as a decent gender balance. You need women, as well as men, in managerial positions, to offer both a different perspective (again – broadening the experience and expertise within the company, broading customer appeal) and to act as visible examples of possible career paths to attract young women into the company to begin with. Large companies wave their benefits packages in front of job hunters – the pension plans, the private healthcare, the accident and life insurance, the travel plans, the concierge services, the freebies – like waving cheap cider in front of a 15 year old in an attempt to beg these baffled young things to come work for them.
So why aren’t they shouting from the rooftops about their maternity packages? Could it be because their maternity packages are shite? Why are they shite? After going to all the trouble to recruit these young women, why aren’t the companies then doing everything in their power to show how much they value them simply to get them to come back after their maternity leave, instead of begrudgingly giving the statutory minimum because the woman selfishly decided to get knocked up and take some time off to breastfeed?
‘Terribly sorry and all that Mr CEO, but it’s biology – if we didn’t have the kids, the economy would go to hell in a handbasket in a generation because there’d be no more consumers (the horror! the horror!). So, since you worked so very very hard to get me to join your company, why not show me that you do actually care about your employees and instill a sense of loyalty – instead of getting all huffy over a basic primary function to the extent that I get so pissed off with the company that I’d rather stay hip deep in nappies and pureed carrots than set foot in the office again?’
Honestly, if men had babies there’d be year-long statutory maternity leave on full pay…