Today I was contacted by a researcher for BBC Any Answers on Twitter in response to a tweet I’d sent them. Earlier in the week I was idly listening to any questions. Lord Tebbit, Conservative Chair was talking, not even sure what the news story was, but he mentioned employment laws for small business and started blaming, yes you’ve guessed it, those darn women getting pregnant. He lives in fear apparently of the horror of the women he employees getting pregnant. I tweeted my disgust at his comments. In anticipation of the Any Questions show the researcher wanted to call me so I could air my view. I declined for a couple of reasons. I’m clearly happy to sit my views but my weapon of choice is my keyboard rather than my voice, at least to the general public. I’d be terrified of saying something stupid or coming off like a moaning minnie. I mean Any Questions is just a middle class version of the Jeremy Vine show, full of Disgusteds of Tunbridge Wells. Why don’t these people just write blogs?

The other deciding factor is I had 3 young children on my own this afternoon. Can you imagine me trying to make a serious point about feminism with “Mummy, I’ve done a poo” or “Iris is putting stones in her nappy” in the background? Hello YouTube.

But, not wanting to seem like someone who won’t put their money where their mouth is I thought I’d write a controlled and planned blog post instead.

Let me caveat this with the fact that I rarely read feminist discourse. I’m not well versed in political theory. I’m a feminist by gut instinct and logical analysis. I don’t have the language and reason more seasoned feminists have, and none of this is evidenced based.

Glad we’ve got that clear. So isn’t it nice that one of the high ranking politicians in the country’s (almost) leading party views my childbearing status with such horror. Do you know what, as a fertile woman I am so fucked off with being scape goated as the source of the problems for small businesses. I didn’t choose to be a woman. And do you know what, if DH could have been pregnant and given birth instead of me I would have let him in an instant. Does Lord Tebbit think it was fun to have 9 months of nausea, insomnia and joint pains? Not to mention 6 months when I was always only seconds away from crapping myself due loss of pelvic floor muscles post partum?

Sure we could chose not to have children but a) that would affect the perception employers have of me as a potential gravida, and b) wouldn’t the world be a bit screwed if ALL women chose to stop having kids. Can’t have it all ways Lord Tebbit.

Wouldn’t it be nice if more value was given to child bearing? You can bet if it was men’s job it would be. Women need maternity leave for several reasons. Firstly for recovering from pregnancy and labour. That 6 months or so is handy for getting back your pelvic floor in time for being released back into society. It’s important for establishing a breastfeeding relationship if that is what the mother wants. And it is important for creating a nurturing bond with the child, bringing up a child who feels loved and secure so they can grow up to be upstanding members of society. Perhaps one of my children will be the one caring for an elderly Tebbit in years to come. Hopefully then he will value the time I spent nurturing them and caring for them. But then I did stiff my company for two sets of maternity leave – mwah ha ha!

Yes maternity leave is a bit of a pain for small businesses. But the government pays the basic leave benefits so not as much of a pain as you’d think. I’m sure all those pesky equality laws are a pain for SMEs too. Let’s just say they don’t have to employee any disabled people, none of those gays or coloureds (might upset the customers), and certainly no women who look like they might get pregnant (maybe if they just picked the really ugly ones…).

No, I don’t really have any of the answers. But then I am not paid to. Now if only there was a group of people who were paid to solve this sort of problem, intelligent people who could represent everyone in the country….if only.

11 thoughts on “Can I just call this post “cock off Lord Tebbit”?

  1. Tebbit is undoubtedly a buffoon, but as an employer of five staff, I do fear maternity leave.

    If one woman were to require maternity leave I would struggle to pay another person to cover that leave.

    In effect, I would not be able to afford to pay myself a proper wage whilst my staff member was on leave, as my wage would go towards paying the person providing cover.

    It’s not just about wages either – training up cover staff is costly in terms of time and resources, then there’s advertising, agency fees etc.

    The bottom line is that if two members of my staff were on maternity leave at the same time, my business would fold completely.

    Even my own family planning hinged on the hope that no other staff members were planning pregnancies at the same time, although I couldn’t discuss that with them, of course.

    Maternity leave is a great deal more than “a bit of a pain” for many small business.

    Which isn’t the fault of pregnant women, of course.

    We need a government that rewards small businesses for managing to stay afloat in the current economic climate, let alone employ people.

    We need support to enable us to employ the best person for each role, irrespective of their age or gender.

    It’s outrageous that we’re put in the position of considering whether to employ someone because they may need to take maternity leave, and outrageous that our businesses could fold if they do!

    1. It’s good to have your point of view on the matter and I can see your points. But something does need to be done so that women of a childbearing age aren’t treated as pariahs. And part of that comes from valuing women and motherhood more in general. That message needs to come from the government down. Fat chance though. Laws will probably change but only in favour of business. Not those also in need but with less money.

  2. Bravo! I heard that comment, too, and was speechless with disgust. No, it can’t be fun as a small employer to have an employee on mat leave. But the bottom line is that you can release her for antenatal appts, and pay her statutory maternity pay (for which I understand you can be reimbursed?) and hire someone on a temporary contract to cover her leave the option to extend it. Perhaps I am naive, but that doesn’t seem like the end of the world, the flatlining of the economy, and the death-knell of small and medium sized businesses to me. So much of these sentiments is either employers with slack (or no) HR processes, or thinly disguised misogyny. Or both!

  3. Hear hear! It’s no wonder so many women lack confidence, is it, I mean clearly we are the root cause of all the problems in the world with our disgusting rounded bodies and our awkward emotions and our insistence on having periods and babies. It’s a good job men never have to take extended periods of time off work with no warning when they have car accidents or heart attacks or sudden diagnoses of sever illness isn’t it, because imagine the strain that would put on small businesses. Oh,
    hang on…

  4. Tebbit is an arse, no doubt about it; but, as Megan says, the situation currently is that small businesses can be brought down by a couple of maternity leaves and therefore any small business owner who wants to keep their business going has to consider this when employing. I’ve been pondering and I have no idea what the solution is. Being slightly left of centre politically I’d prefer us to be looking at a Scandinavian type solution where we pay higher taxes and support men and women properly to look after children and/or put them into good childcare. Any other solution would involve women in becoming more flexible and thereby losing some of their hardfoughtfor rights. It’s a pay off, the rights we currently have mean we could be less attractive employees (though of course no one is ever allowed to discuss these factors at interview) but if we become more flexible we might have to give up some of those rights to become more employable….. Anyhow, I’m no expert, I took redundancy during my first mat leave and now find myself unemployable 7 years later since I’ve “not got any recent work experience”….. but that’s a whole other (related) can of worms!

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