A woman is not a risk to an employer

7.3.2014 13:55

The biggest hurdle to working life equality is the uneven division of family leaves and other family responsibilities. If the division issue were fixed, the issues with parental costs and the so called "baby risk" would automatically be resolved.

There has recently been a surprisingly lively debate as regards women being a risk to employers. The risk in this debate has been defined as the one related to family responsibilities and family leaves.

"Spreading such notion is not based on facts and doesn't serve anybody's interests. Employers should use women's expertise instead of avoiding recruiting them," says Kosti Hyyppä, advisor of equality issues at SEFE, The Finnish Association of Business School Graduates.

This notion, strengthened as a consequence of the recent debate, makes it even more difficult for young women to find an employment where the requirements and compensation would correspond with their level of expertise. It doesn't make finding a permanent job easier either.

Temporary contracts make women's family leaves longer. If, for example, a temporary contract has finished before the leave, the family leave usually goes on until a new job is found. At the same time, fathers lose an opportunity to have a longer family leave. This slows down the equality development in the working life.

Based on research, the costs are not the employers' main concern as regards family leaves. Absence of key personnel, finding a replacement, rearranging work and training the replacement seem to be bigger problems.

"The costs of family leave are only the fifth biggest concern in both bigger and smaller workplaces. More critical risks, such as an absence of a key person, can materialize with anybody, also with men," Hyyppä points out.

Women entrepreneurs have used an innovative approach to calculating when measuring the costs of parenthood, including estimates based on experience. So their estimate of the costs due to pregnancy-related absences is not statistics-based, simply because there are no statistics on the issue.

Based on the existing statistics it does not appear, however, that pregnant employees would be more often ill than other employees on average. An employer always bears the risk of an employee falling ill. Pregnant employees are mainly young and healthy women who are also committed to their employer.

The focus should be put on how to divide the family leaves more evenly. It's not fair to conclude that fathers' share can be increased only when an equal pay between men and women has been reached. On the contrary, all potential hurdles to working life equality must be dismantled. 

"There are no different salary grids to family breadwinners and women anymore. Now that we have given up different salary grids we have already taken a step towards a more equal working life," Hyyppä notes.

Additional information:
SEFE, The Finnish Association of Business School Graduates
Advisor Kosti Hyyppä, tel. 0503516177, kosti.hyyppa@sefe.fi