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Will a long maternity leave ruin your career?

Women in a variety of professional fields face pay disparity and being passed over for promotion

Another concern for expectant mothers or those wanting to have children has arisen, with a panel of women warning that taking more than 12 months maternity leave could harm their career in the long term.

Women representing a number of professions have discussed the issue of maternity leave with MPs, with each agreeing that there is a definite trend across the board wherein women make strong starts to their careers, with progress slowing once they have a family.

Audrey Williams is a lawyer with Fox Williams and spoke of patterns in the legal profession, with intake progress showing a disparity from around the age of 38 for women. This includes both pay and career momentum, she said. Williams also noted that maternity leave that runs for longer than 9-12 months could also be harmful.

Maternity leave means that women have a gap in their employment history on their CVs, and HR professionals are quick to notice this. As a result, they are less likely to be selected for some of the roles for which they are applying.

Amanda Fone is chief executive of F1 Recruitment. She pointed out that many women are turned down for interviews because of the gap in employment history. She also said that her firm often advises women in their 30s to continue working even if they are planning a family, to avoid the CV gap.

Echoing this sentiment, Sally Davies of the Women’s Medical Federation added that taking a break for longer than 12 months will mean that employers look at you differently upon return to work.

Slower employment progression

Women are additionally being warned that they could even be overlooked when it comes to promotion in their own field. Amanda Brown from the National Union of Teachers (NUT) confirmed that women returning from maternity leave are seldom even considered for promotion.

What is left is a ‘motherhood pay gap’, a phrase coined by the Adam Smith Institute, which also indicates that there isn’t a legal or governmental solution that can realistically address this gap. It comes as a side effect of a wider culture in which women take on the primary role of parenting rather than men.

The panel said that this gap was not necessarily a reflection performance or motivation in the business arena, but rather a by-product of time taken out of the workplace.

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