Unequal opportunities employment.

Some years ago I was told to do the preliminary interviews for a vacancy where I worked and given a crash course in UK employment law. When it came to the fairer sex I was told to pay particular attention to the following so as not to open us up to a law suit later on:

  1. Don’t ask if she’s got kids because it makes it look like you want to know in case she’s going to keep disappearing every time one of them has a sniffle, and if she doesn’t get the job we might get sued.
  2. Don’t ask if she plans to have kids – see above, plus it looks like you’re also worried about her taking maternity leave and forcing you to keep her job open, so if she doesn’t get the job we might get sued.
  3. Don’t ask how long she’s been married because it looks like you’re trying to find out if she might start a family soon. And if she doesn’t get the job we might get sued.
  4. In the event that she volunteers any of the above don’t for Christ’s sake end the interview even if you’ve got everything you need. String it out, because if she doesn’t get the job it looks like we lost interest in her as soon as kids were mentioned and we might get sued.
  5. Also, again in the event that she volunteers the info you should not ask about in 1 to 3, don’t ask about her childcare arrangements. Because if she doesn’t get the job we might get sued.
  6. No, not even just in conversation before the interview proper.
  7. Just don’t, okay?
  8. In fact – and you didn’t hear this from me, right – if there are some suitable blokes life would be easier all round, but we really need to see a couple of women just to be on the safe side. Or we might get sued. Got me?
  9. Oh, but the older ones will be fine as long as there aren’t grandchildren.
  10. Refer to points 1 to 7 for rules on asking about grandchildren.

Having no legal training I don’t know how much of this was accurate and how much of it was misinterpreted and how much was just bollocks, but I could recognise that the law intended to make working easier for women by outlawing any possibility of discrimination simply had the effect of creating a set of disincentives to interviewing women in the first place. Something a simple as being female, of child bearing age and having a diamond ring on the ring finger of her left hand could easily make the interview a box ticking exercise because minds have been made up. She might loathe children, she might be terrified of giving birth, she might even be gay and sterile, but the odds being otherwise it will be tempting for a small company on tight margins simply to go through the motions and bin her resumé as soon as she’s out of the door in favour of someone who’s less likely to take time off for sprog related issues. I’m not saying it’s right, but I am saying it can, does and will continue to happen because that’s the way life is sometimes. I’m also saying it’s a bit of a shitter for any highly qualified child hating, tokophobic, sterile lesbian whose CV gets circular filed after the first not-really-an-interview because of questions that can’t be asked.

I know even less about the legal situation here in Australia, but I do know that a lot of small businesses – and Australia has millions of them – have now got one more reason not to hire a woman.

AUSTRALIA has its first universal paid parental leave scheme, catching up with the rest of the developed world, after the Coalition voted with the Rudd government to back the historic legislation.

The scheme passed into law by parliament today will provide 18 weeks’ paid parental leave from January 1.

In a real world context this will mean that some small businesses will be thinking about whether it’s worth hiring someone who might take that leave. By no means all, but some… especially as it looks like they’re going to be the ones dealing with the administration for the scheme.

The opposition gave up on an amendment that would have reduced the burden on small businesses by exempting employers from having to administer the scheme.

Still, sounds like the opposition are at least on the side of small business, right? Which in turn means they’re also on the side of our hypothetical tokophobic lesbian with the great CV because employers will easily be able to establish that she’s there to stay and is a great find, yes? Er, actually no.

The Coalition’s spokeswoman for women, Sharman Stone, said the government’s scheme was “not good enough and is no match for the scheme to be implemented by the Coalition when they are in office”.

“The poor-relation scheme offering only 18 weeks of the minimum wage does not go near covering the household expenses of two-income families working hard to pay their mortgage and the costs of living,” Dr Stone said.

Great. Isn’t it just wonderful when opposing parties try to out-lovely each other with taxpayers’ money. And I see it hasn’t occurred to anybody professing concern about ‘working Australian families’ (an essential phrase to have on your card if you’re playing federal election speak bingo) that taking away a third of their income for tax and maintaining policies that keep Australian property prices artificially high might be part of why they’re fucking struggling to make ends meet.

ACTU President Sharan Burrow said an 18-week scheme would be great for families and great for the economy by encouraging a higher participation rate of women in their most productive working years.

“A new national standard that gives all women the right to take a period of paid leave will also be a major benefit to maternal and child health and development”, she said.

Providing the job a woman wants doesn’t go to a man in the first place, just to be on the safe side.

I might never exist, but fuck you anyway

In fact only one person seems to have sussed that making women of child bearing age less attractive to interview in the first place really isn’t much to write home about, and even then it seems more about the regulatory side of things being borne by businesses.

Opposition spokesperson Sharman Stone says she is very concerned about the burden small businesses will face in administering the scheme.

“This reinstates, or if you like puts into place, an additional potential discrimination against women,” she said.

Really the only good news for women’s employment prospects is that the scheme applies to both parents, so really the risk ought to be the same of hiring someone who will become a stay at home dad.

Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick said it was also an historic day for fathers, noting that the leave can be shared between parents.

“The paid parental leave scheme is about mums and dads,” she said.

She said 18 weeks was a good start, but the scheme should be extended to six months with extra leave for fathers.

“Until you isolate a component just for dads on a use it or lose it basis, most dads won’t take any of the leave.”

So there you go ladies. Equality at last, and everyone in the same boat (provided it doesn’t just mean fewer businesses and more sole traders of course). So if you do get preggers after January you can enjoy paid maternity leave unless you earn more than $150K, in which case you get zip… well, except for the $5,000 Baby Bonus. But if you earn less than the magic number then courtesy of Kindly Kevin and his largesse with the taxpayers’ dollar you will get the Baby Bonus and the 18 weeks maternity pay, all $534.78 per week of it.

Just don’t spend it all at once because Kindly Kevin is going to tax you on it. Ain’t he a love?

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Posted on June 18, 2010, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Unequal opportunities employment..

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