First Chairwoman of the Institute of Directors (IoD) , Lady Barbara Judge, has claimed that women risk losing their jobs by taking long maternity breaks, The Telegraph has reported.
Speaking at the Wealth Management Association’s Women in Health Forum she said:
“I know it’s counter-cultural but I think long maternity breaks are bad for women…My mother used to say: ‘When the baby is born it needs to be fed, bathed and diapered. An 18-year-old girl can do that. Your job is to get the money to pay the 18-year-old girl. When you have to be there is when the child gets smarter than the nanny’.”
She then went on to say:
“A friend of mine worked at Reckitt Benckiser and wanted to take a year off to look after her adopted baby. I told her: ‘You’re mad. You have a great job and, trust me, you’ll lose it if you take a year off’. She took 12 month’s maternity leave, she returned to work – and then three months later the financial crisis hit. The first job they cut was hers. Why? Because her boss had been doing her job for a year. They realised they didn’t need her.”
Lady Judge, who took just 12 days off when her son was born, said she believed that maternity arrangements in the US are better than the British system, where companies with over 50 employees are obliged to provide 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave.
In the UK women are entitled to take up to a year off, and 39 of those weeks must be paid leave.
The IoD informed the MailOnline that Judge was speaking in a personal capacity.
On the comments the IoD told the MailOnline:
“The IoD believes businesses have both a legal and a moral duty to support parents and help them to balance work and family life. Managing the process of returning to work sensitively, at the time that the mother feels appropriate for her, is an imperative for all employers. The IoD advises all of its members to do everything they can to make sure having a family is never a barrier to career progression.”
The Director of Maternity Action, Rosalind Bragg gave her opinion to the MailOnline, saying that business leaders should be highlighting “bad practice by employers rather than criticising women for taking their legal entitlement to maternity leave.”
“Every year, 54,000 pregnant women and new mothers lose their jobs because of unfair and unlawful treatment by their employer. Laws are in place to protect women from pregnancy and maternity discrimination but a worrying number of employers are not complying with their legal obligations.”
Lady Judge has been a fierce supporter of women in the workplace, and has been the first female to hold many positions of power in business. She was the first female executive director at News International, a British Merchant Bank and the first female chairman of the IoD.