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The mother of all paradoxes

Stronger maternity rights can help mothers, but they will hurt employers and women in general

By Catherine Hakim   December 2009

It seems self-evidently unfair that a woman should lose her job for being pregnant, yet such things used to be common. Before equal opportunities legislation was introduced in the 1970s, it was even legal to fire women for getting married. Now Harriet Harman is determined that Britain must do more to protect women. Her equalities bill follows Sweden’s lead, where maternity leave has been extended to three years and fathers are forced to take paternity leave. Yet laws protecting women’s employment are less successful than we think, and Harman’s moves to break the glass ceiling may actually strengthen it.


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