Maternity leave 'could damage careers'

Extending maternity leave to a year could adversely affect women's career prospects, the chief executive of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission has warned.

Nicola Brewer warned that employers would be wary of recruiting women of childbearing age or offering them promotion to more senior roles if they thought they might disappear for a year on maternity leave. She said sharing parental leave between the mother and father would be one way of addressing the problem.

Brendan Barber, general secretary of the TUC, said: "The idea that extending family-friendly rights would somehow hurt women's job prospects is a myth commonly peddled by employers who don't want to employ women of child-bearing age or give male staff time off to spend with their children.

"Proposals to increase flexible working rights to parents of older children and allow up to six months of maternity leave to be transferred to fathers will help combat these entrenched views about family-friendly rights and will benefit all parents."

Under laws introduced in April 2007, women can now take 52 weeks' maternity leave, and receive statutory maternity pay for 39.

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