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Maternity Leave

Volume 976: debated on Tuesday 18 December 1979

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asked the Secretary of State for Employment (1) how many women at present exercise their right to return to work after maternity leave; and how he estimates the provisions in the Employment Bill will affect this number;(2) how many women exercising their right to return to work after maternity leave work for firms employing fewer than six people; and how he estimates the provisions in the Employment Bill will affect this number.

[pursuant to his reply,13 December 1979]: My Department does have figures for the numbers of women who have received maternity pay and in respect of whom rebate has been paid to the employer by my Department. The qualification period of two years for maternity pay is the same as for the right to return, and the figures may be used as a guide to the number of women who are entitled to exercise their right to return. The figures are as follows:

April 1977 to March 197967,366
April 1978 to March 1979107,953
April 1979 to September 197955,139
No figures are available of the number of women who do exercise their right to return to work after maternity leave, although we believe that it is a small proportion of those who are entitled to.The maternity provisions in the Employment Bill are intended to reduce the uncertainty felt by the employer as to whether or not the employee will return, and to give him room for manoeuvre in being able to offer her suitable alternative employment; employers with fewer than six employees are to be exempted from the obligation to reinstate, where it is not reasonably practicable for them to offer either the original job or a suitable alternative. This should encourage employers to employ more women.