I was recently asked to comment on the changes to maternity pay for the Politics Show on BBC1. Maternity leave laws were changing, and they wanted a business perspective on the changes.
I was surprised how deep the myths around maternity pay are when I was talking about it so I decided to debunk a few ideas here.
A pregnant employee will cost me a fortune
Big myth. Not true. If an employee goes on maternity leave, you pay her, and then you claim back all the money from the government. They pay the maternity pay, not the employer. Yes, you have to fill out some forms (again), but it doesn’t cost you any money.
If you’ve got a new employee in to cover, you’ll have to pay them, but as you’re no longer paying the one with the baby, there’s no extra cost.
She won’t come back after maternity leave
A bit of a myth. Two-thirds of women do come back after maternity leave, usually within 28 weeks after the baby is born. Many women prefer to come back part time, at least for the first year, which is can often be a bonus. And when someone isn’t going to return, she’ll usually tell you beforehand, or let’s face it, you’ll know.
I’ll have to get someone else
This is the area which is, in fact, a major pain when someone goes on maternity leave. We all hate the hassle of recruitment and don’t have time to train someone new up. So you have to think about how you’re going to cover.
Often you need to advertise the job on a temporary contract, but sometimes you can be more creative.
Would you be recruiting for a new person anyway? Could you get someone in to do the maternity cover, but also train them to do something else, so when your original person comes back you can redeploy the new person elsewhere in the team? This can come in very handy if your original person wants to come back part time. You’ve now got two trained and capable people, helping you to build your business.
She’ll be out of the loop
This one may or may not be true. If someone is on maternity leave for 6-12 months, then, of course, they’re going to be out of the loop. If you want to make the most of them, it’s up to you to do a return to work induction and get them up to speed as fast as possible.
Remember that you can do “Keep In Touch” days while she’s on maternity leave, where the woman comes in and spends a day in the office, maybe helping with a project, or coming in for a planning day.
These can work well, and when your employee comes back, she’ll be ready to go.
The person who’s going on maternity leave is probably a beneficial member of staff who you want to keep because she makes you lots of money.
If she goes on maternity leave, then see this as a temporary interruption to her working for you, rather than a disaster. And when things move as fast as they do in a business, she’ll probably be back before you know it.
Let’s move into the 21st century
In the 1930s a woman would automatically leave work (or be forced to) when she got married. That attitude seems ridiculous to us now, but fears around maternity leave and pay are based on the same idea.
Let’s leave all that behind and concentrate on doing business in the 21st century.
I was also surprised on the TV show that the presenters seemed to assume that as a business person, I would automatically be against the extension of maternity leave for women. It shows how there are stereotypes of business people too. We’re not the evil monsters people assume us to be. Many of us are running progressive organisations, treating our staff well, and being a force for positive change in the world.
If you need some help growing your business and keeping both ethical and profitable, find out more about business mentoring with Julia.
More thoughts about business
Your business isn’t just for making money. I think we’re here to make money and to have fun. There are lots of reasons why we run businesses, including being able to make an impact on the world, to do great work, leave a legacy or to create a great culture for our staff. Those are some of the reasons my business mentoring clients tell me about.
To explore more about the different dimensions of running a small business, here are some other articles to get you thinking. All views are absolutely my own!
Brexit for business – What does it mean and how will it affect your business?