Businesswomen condemn UKIP MEP’s "crazy" views on hiring women

April 30, 2013 5:10 PM
By Asa Bennett in London loves Business

A senior UKIP MEP has come under fire for suggesting that it was "received wisdom" among employers to avoid hiring women of childbearing age.

This comes after Godfrey Bloom MEP, UKIP's spokesperson on Economic Affairs and Women's Issues, was forced to defend comments from 2004 in which he said that "no self-respecting small businessman with a brain in the right place would ever employ a lady of child-bearing age".

"That isn't politically correct, is it, but it's a fact of life. The more women's rights you have, it's actually a bar to their employment."

Speaking to BBC Radio 5 on Sunday night, Bloom argued he had been quoted out of context and his point was about "draconian employment legislation".

"We have a problem that employers are frightened to employ women of childbearing age so they tend to employ women whose families have grown up and that has been vindicated in spades so when I said that in 2004 it caused ooh shock horror and now it's received wisdom.'

Bloom went on to suggest that if he would be thinking "very carefully" about the woman's age if he was considering her for a role in which she needed to turn up at work every morning.

"This isn't rocket science is it? This is perfectly straightforward small business policy."

Louise Taft, senior employment solicitor at Prolegal, told LondonlovesBusiness.com that Bloom's comments "represent exactly the type of anachronistic attitude that have hampered the progress of gender equality in the workplace for years."

Beatrice Bartlay, MD of 2B interface, said that SMEs would deny themselves "some of the best brains in Britain if they refused to employ women of childbearing age".

"There will always be a certain amount of 'risk' in employing women - or men! - of childbearing age, for example, paying for leave, loss of productivity due to absence, etc. But they are risking missing out on the value that individuals can add to the business."

Kate Russell, MD of Russell HR consulting, said that "it would be crazy to throw away the talent opportunities offered by women just because they might have a baby".

"Sure, there are women who use their babies like metaphorical battering rams to jump the queue and make unreasonable demands, but they would be problem employees whatever the circumstances," she added.

Lyndsey Oliver, co-founder of the Female Quotient consultancy, said: "Setting aside the fact that Godfrey Bloom's statement is blatantly discriminatory, such a view is also massively shortsighted.

"If businesses discount women of childbearing age, which would be those between teens and 50's, a significant proportion of the talent pool would be eliminated straightaway, which from a business perspective is insane."

Sarah Lafferty, director of Round Earth Consulting, said in response to Bloom's comments: "Today, there are so many ways in which employers can offer flexible working, that it seems utterly bizarre to start discriminating against mothers now.

"I think that people like Nigel Farage [and UKIP] are just looking for any excuse because they are actually afraid of women!"

Meanwhile, Jerry Brand, MD at Caternet, poured scorn on Bloom's comments: "Small businesses need to employ the best people and if that happens to be a lady of childbearing age, so what?

"My experience is that many ladies who I have employed who have had their children are back at work before the end of their maternity period - perhaps not in body but certainly online and in support of the business from home," he added.

Dominic Monkhouse, EMEA MD for PEER 1 Hosting, condemned Bloom's "outrageous" comments.

"I think people used to say similar things about slavery i.e. how could firms possibly mange without slaves or child labour."

"In reality businesses should operate with a moral code and do the right thing for their staff. There are plenty of highly-skilled, talented people in the UK, and the benefits of having a balanced workforce in terms of demographic far outweigh the costs involved in supporting staff at different stages in their life."