Apprentice host Alan Sugar has spoken out about laws protecting women saying that employers should be able to ask female applicants about their plans to have children. He says that it turns interviews into a ‘psychological charade’ with employers trying to guess at a woman’s intentions.
He made the comments ahead of International Women’s Day. He said that whether a woman wants to have children and how she intends to juggle work and family is an important consideration for an employer.
He says: “I believe the employment regulations for women, whereby the prospective employer is not able to inquire about the interviewee’s status regarding children or childcare- or indeed their intention of becoming a parent- are counterproductive.
“As things stand interviewers are forced to play our some kind of psychological charade where they know their obligations under the law but effectively, in some cases, make up their mind in advance about the prospects of employing the person sitting in front of them.
“I say women should be forthcoming when being interviewed, declaring their status regarding children and childcare so as to pre-empt the unanswerable questions in the mind of the interviewer and then focus on the most important thing: what skills they can bring to the company and why they should be employed.
“I would be very impressed by a person who settled the matter at the outset, telling me how they are going to organise their life in order to do their job but, more importantly, how they are going to get on with the job in hand- what they are going to bring to their party.”
Up in arms
His views have understandably caused outrage. Working mums already get paid less than their male equivalents – a gap that is particularly evident when women choose to work part time. According to figures compiled by the Office for National Statistics, while the gap between the earnings of men and women in full time employment is closing, women who work part-time earn 35% less than their male equivalents. And statistically women are far more likely to choose part-time work than men.
Catherine Rogan, rights adviser for Working Families, a charity with a free legal helpline to support the rights of working families in the face of workplace discrimination, says Alan Sugar’s comments are, at best, old fashioned.
“If a woman is asked about her intentions to have children it is a big red flag that the prospective employer may intend to discriminate and there are laws against that.
“The law isn’t all on the employee’s side. While women with children may well want to put in a request to work flexibly, the employer has the right to turn the request down if they can demonstrate that it will be detrimental to the business.”
“But Sir Alan is out of date,” she says. Men who will become dads after April 3 may be entitled to take Additional Paternity Leave of up to 26 weeks. She continues. “Will Sir Alan then be asking male employees about their plans to become a father too, and whether they will be asking for flexible working and Additional Paternity Leave too? “
What do you think? Should employers be able to ask you about your plans to have children?