Small businesses overestimate the cost of maternity protection, according to Middlesex University report

According to a report by Middlesex University for the International Labour Organization, the owners of small businesses tend to overestimate the burden of having to provide maternity protection for their working staff.

Led by the Professor of Organizational Psychology for Middlesex University Suzan Lewis, having an effective maternity protection has a more positive impact on SMEs and can encourage wider social benefits, including poverty reduction, gender equality, fertility rates and economic development.

The review found that SME owner-managers were not fond of maternity protection regulations, afraid that the time and costs would result in a competitive disadvantage. However a link was found between the quality of maternity protection and improvements in performance, productivity and employee satisfaction.

The findings seem to conclude that women who are sure their employer will support them in starting a family and won’t stereotype their role in the workplace will be much happier, loyal and therefore productive. However if there is to be a suitable balance between work and family, there must be intervention on the side of SMEs as well, such as maternal protection and other such measures.

The report also pointed out the potential for the government to help out with small businesses in complying with maternity provisions.

Professor Lewis commented on the findings: “Anything that is going to impact the financial stability of a business is naturally of concern to its owner, and that is why it is so important to understand that many maternity protection practices can have little or no costs and considerable benefits.

“The economic reality means that if we want small businesses to implement strong maternity protections, some financial compensation by way of tax breaks or public subsidies may be necessary-and that is something policy-makers ought to consider seriously. Additionally, education campaigns designed to raise awareness and provide practical advice to employers struggling with maternity entitlement issues is also vital-especially information which highlights the potential productivity benefits.”

Another expert that worked on the report, CEEDR (Centre for Enterprise and Economic Development Research) Research Associate Dr Bianca Stumbitz said: “It is clear that a supportive workplace is crucial-one that is sensitive to gender-specific issues and that recognises the joint roles that both men and women play in family life.”

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