Men tend to get Paid More than Women because of the High Cost of Maternity Leave

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 31st, 2013

Week in Review

There was a movie in 1985 called Head Office.  It lampooned corporate America.  In it there was this one character who was dying from heart disease or something.  But he refused to take time off from work.  Because if he did someone else would get his job.  He’d rather take a chance on dying than risk losing his job.  Because the corporate world was that cutthroat.  There was always someone waiting in the wings to take your job.  Which is why you never wanted to miss work.  Because if someone else did your job for you when you were away and they did it better than you they might just keep your job.  Leaving you to start your corporate career all over again.  And often with less pay and fewer benefits.

That’s the way it used to be.  Today, it’s a bit different.  Especially if you’re a woman (see As a boss, maternity leave is a nightmare for employers by Josephine Fairley posted 8/28/2013 on The Telegraph).

There’s no denying, of course, that for companies – especially really small companies – maternity leave presents challenges. Suddenly, a key team member isn’t there. And even more challengingly, there’s no way to know if she’s coming back – which makes it hard to plan for the future…

Right now, it isn’t legal to ask a pregnant woman whether she’s even thinking of coming back to work. There’s no imperative for her proactively to tell you proactively – never mind before the birth, but right up to the time that the 52 weeks of maternity leave are up. And my observation is that’s partly what makes it so hard to plan, and accommodate, a woman who’s on maternity leave…

I know several women who’ve returned to work after a few months, never mind a year of maternity leave, feeling like they’d landed on Mars because so much had changed while they were away.

52 weeks of maternity leave?  And they don’t have to say whether they’re coming back to work?  The boss can come in one day and find a key employee will leave for an extended absence in 6 months time?  And not know if she will ever return to work?

So they have to hire someone temporarily.  Who they will have to let go if she comes back from maternity leave.  Even if this temporary person turns out to be better in that position.  So a person that they hired and trained so well that they are better than the person they filled in for must lose his or her job.  Someone who may have taken that position because they didn’t expect that person to return from maternity leave.  And because it was the best job available at the time they took that chance.  Only to find the year they invested there was a year out of their life that they could have spent somewhere else.  Building a career where their hard work was rewarded.  Then spend time and resources training the woman returning from maternity leave.  So she can understand all the changes that happened in her absence.

This is why men tend to get paid more when they compare salaries.  First of all, with a lot of women taking maternity leave it does bring down the women’s average income when they take a year or two of income earning years out of their career.  And secondly, who do you think an employer will want to hire?  Someone that they have to accommodate for up to a year in maternity leave?  Or someone that isn’t going to walk in and say “I’m going to have a baby in 6 months”?  If they are working on a 2 year project they don’t want to worry about a key team member leaving in the middle of it.  It may be unfair.  But men can’t get pregnant.  They can do a lot of stupid things to ruin a big project just as women can.  But women have that one other variable.  That a business owner can’t have a contingency for.  What are they going to do?  Have two people doing the job of one in case one of them goes on maternity leave?  What if it’s two women and they go on maternity leave at the same time?  Do you have to make sure that one of the two people doing the job of one person is a man?  So he will always be available if the woman goes on maternity leave?  Of course, you know where that will take you.  Why not just hire a man and have one person do the job of one person?  And remove the need for any contingency in the first place?

Business owners hate uncertainty.  Pregnancy creates uncertainty.  This isn’t a man versus a woman issue.  A battle of the sexes.  For women own businesses, too.  And hate uncertainty just as any other business owner.  Some may make a stand for women in the workplace.  Hire women into key positions then deal with their maternity leave.  But they, too, would probably prefer hiring a man in some key positions.  So they can just worry about the usual things.  Like losing a key employee who leaves for a better paying job.  Of course if they do they at least can immediately start interviewing a replacement.  Without waiting 52 weeks.


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