The Big Question: Will proposed maternity leave changes affect the PR gender balance? Government plans to extend maternity leave could further tip the balance for businesses to employ men over women. So is this a bolt from the blue or are PR agencies alre

TARI HIBBITT, Edelman PR Worldwide

TARI HIBBITT, Edelman PR Worldwide



’Yes it is a danger, but it doesn’t have to be so. Our business is one

of the few not dependent on people being tied to the office. We have the

technology to embrace part-time working and create a workforce which is

creative, experienced, intellectually-driven yet flexible and mobile

There is already a pool of experienced freelances who can hit the ground

running as maternity cover. Senior women must take an active role in

implementing a fair recruitment and promotion policy, and in educating

our male counterparts that it would be a great loss to our industry if

the gender balance is tipped even further.’





GRACE FODOR, Fodor Wyllie



’Not at all. If anything it will encourage the industry to look for new

ways of attracting and motivating staff. We are in a people business and

our ’assets’ should be looked after, as we have spent a great deal of

time and money investing in ’mothers’ before they have had their

children. If we do not give them the freedom to balance their careers

and family there will be a mass exodus of talent across the board. It is

not just about women and children there is a much bigger issue about

flexible working and commitment to employees which could cover anything

from study leave, home working to travel ambitions.’





JENNY McGREGOR, The Shire Hall Group



’Affecting the gender balance within agencies can only be achieved by

discriminating against women in recruitment - not only illegal, but very

short sighted. Recruitment decisions should be made on merit alone.

Britain is behind most of Europe in its attitudes and legislation

regarding maternity rights, and PR has lost some of its most experienced

professionals because of company inflexibility towards maternity leave

and the work-life balance of mothers. The industry can ill afford to

loose their expertise, especially the senior people. With good planning,

maternity leave is manageable. And let’s not brush the men aside in this

issue - parental leave is already granted to men, and statutory

paternity leave may well follow.’





TONY LANGHAM, Lansons Communications



’No. Successful PR companies already offer maternity and paternity pay

and leave way beyond the statutory minimum. Agencies that find the

proposals a problem aren’t attracting the best PR women now, let alone

in the future. Most agencies will go further than the current proposals

and women will take a rising proportion of senior PR jobs and ownership

stakes in their agencies. The key issue for PR agencies is to offer fair

employment packages without compromising quality of service to clients.

The Government’s maternity and paternity proposals meet these criteria.

The danger for the PR industry is that desperation to recruit leads some

agencies to offer ’benefits’ that undermine quality of service to

clients.’



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