You are going to read a newspaper article on the latest developments concerning working women and their maternity rights. Choose the most suitable heading from the list A – I for each part 1 – 7 of the article. There is one extra heading which you do not need to use. There is an example at the beginning (0).
A A shameful comparison
B Complexity and inefficiency
C The case at the moment
D Rights for both
E No protection
F An unsuccessful attempt
G A paradise for working mothers
H A future promise
I It’s for women only
The High Price of Eurobabies
Nothing in the law of a country is simple. But it is a disgrace that British law, on something so important as maternity leave for working women, should be as complicated as it unfortunately is. And if that was not bad enough, women in the UK have the worst maternity pay rights in Europe.
Before 1975, motherhood in the UK had a high cost. Until that year, there were no legal rights for pregnant working women. A mother had absolutely no legal rights if having her baby meant she lost her job.
Today’s law gives a minimum measure of protection to most working women, but it has been a slow process with several later Acts complicating the first two. Nowadays, women’s employment contracts in Britain, especially at senior and middle-management level, often include generous maternity rights. But the reality for most women is still the bare legal minimum, and in the UK that minimum really is bare.
3 : _____
Women in the UK are entitled to a minimum of six weeks maternity leave on 90 per cent of their salary and eight weeks thereafter on £57.70. That is very little when compared to the other 14 member states of the European Union. Every EU member state has improved on the Pregnancy Directive’s minimum 14-week entitlement except Britain, where it is the only maternity leave insisted on by law. Even countries outside the EU have a higher minimum standard for their women workers and executives than in Britain, as for instance Belarus, Norway and the Ukraine which offer 18 weeks on 100 per cent salary.
Mothers get a raw deal in the UK, but fathers hardly get a deal at all. Some of the big corporations are starting to take fathers seriously but they are few and far between. Some businesses may allow a man a few days off when his wife or partner has a baby, but for many fathers there is no legal entitlement in their terms of employment. Research has shown that only 31 per cent of workplaces employing men allow their employees paid paternity leave. The general attitude is that childbirth is something to be left to a woman to get through on her own, even when she is not a single parent !
Since 1982 the EOC has been calling, without success, for a modest five day paternity leave for new fathers. In 1993 when the Labour MP Greville Janner introduced a Private Member’s Bill to give spouses or partners of pregnant women the right to a maximum three months’ unpaid leave, John Major’s government blocked it.
However, the tide now seems to be turning. Early in April of this year, it was leaked to the press that Tony Blair’s Government was proposing to give working fathers one week’s paid paternity leave, though at the low level of £57.20. The Minister was quoted as saying “We want to send a message to women that men should be by their side when they give birth.” Nothing came of that suggested move and the Government has since issued a White Paper ‘Fairness at Work’ in which it promises to implement an EU directive on the whole subject of Parental Leave by the end of next year.
So, again, Britain is behind its European partners. Most of Europe already has that message. In fact, many countries have gone beyond the concept of mere paternity leave for the father and have developed the idea of parental leave for whichever parent wants it. For instance, in Belgium there is three to 12 months’ paid leave for up to a total of three years during anyone person’s working life, although this does not apply to senior managers. In France and Germany, parental leave is available until a child is three and may be taken by either parent or shared but, in France, it is only paid leave for the first child. On the other hand, the Netherlands, Greece, Portugal and Spain all offer generous shared leave but only on an unpaid basis.