Harrogate District Chamber of Commerce News

7 Reasons Why SMEs Won’t Recruit Women – The Maternity Misconception!

16 Aug 2017 by sally@limelighthr.co.uk

I find managers in small businesses are refreshingly frank when it comes to discussing their people issues. I may not agree with certain practices or beliefs, and they may not even be legal, but I can only advise effectively if there is complete honesty. I don’t judge because every belief and practise has developed for a reason, whether you agree with that reason or not.

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A subject that has cropped up with a number SMEs recently is the fear of recruiting women of a ‘child-bearing age’ (a pretty wide age range you would think). It may seem like a dated subject but that doesn’t make it any less real and current for owners of SMEs who view maternity leave and pay as an unmanageable drain on the business when budgets are limited and competition is fierce. I’m not questioning the legality as it is clearly a form of discrimination, rather I want to concentrate on what drives this idea that a whole subsection of employees should be overlooked in the recruitment process and that men are a ‘safer’ bet.

Here I’m looking at some of the recurrent themes and an alternative viewpoint.

“I interviewed a man (Jack) and a woman (Jill). Jill was more experienced and probably a better team fit but I’m sure Jack will do well and it’s safer recruiting him”

If Jill has the experience and is the right team fit, what are you basing ‘he will do well on’ and is that good enough? Is Jack a safe bet if you don’t really think he’s the right person for the job? Have you factored in the time and money it will take to train him to the same level as Jill? Have you considered the impact on the existing team of having a less capable colleague?

Consider that Jack could break a leg and go on long term sick leave, or quit the job because he finds something that’s a better fit. Jill might not be planning on getting pregnant any time soon, or ever for that matter. Do you want to make your decision based on the facts you know to be true now or on what could happen in the future?

If you are serious about your business being successful and profitable you need the best people in addition to the range of skills, knowledge and creativity that only a diverse workforce can offer.

You do need to consider the legal implications of discrimination in your recruitment process and the financial and reputational risk to your business. Now that tribunal fees have been scrapped small businesses are facing a real risk of facing claims. Maternity pay is small change in comparison to potential pay-outs at a tribunal.

“We don’t have the budget to pay maternity pay as well as a salary to the replacement whilst she is on maternity leave”

Many companies offer enhanced maternity pay, and I would encourage it where possible as it is an added benefit and incentive in recruiting and retaining the best staff. However, if the business cannot support enhanced pay you can just offer Statutory Maternity Pay and claim back between 92% and 103% via the HMRC. If you can’t afford the cost upfront you may even be able to claim payment in advance https://www.gov.uk/recover-statutory-payments.

Now that Shared Parental Leave and Pay has been introduced, men are also entitled to an extended period of leave and statutory pay so recruiting a man isn’t a fool-proof means of avoiding costs related to parental rights.

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So what does that mean for SMEs when it comes to recruitment?

There are a lot of what if’s when it comes to people but if you focus on what your business needs from a new team member, how you are going to test that at interview and how you are going to ensure you get what is expected once they are recruited you are off to a winning start. Be brave, challenge your preconceptions, recruit the best talent, set your business up for success.

Hopefully next time Jill walks through your door and fills you with confidence about her abilities and her potential to contribute to your business you will grab her with both hands! Figuratively not literally, otherwise it’s a whole new topic to cover!

If you have any comments or would like help with any people related matters please visit www.limelighthr.co.uk or email me at sally@limelighthr.co.uk.