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Employment & Labour

Maternity leave part of a long-term investment, says MacLeod

Doug MacLeod

For many employers, making a long-term investment in the best employees trumps any concerns they have when it comes to shorter-term work/life balance issues like maternity leave, says Toronto employment law lawyer Doug MacLeod.

Recently, it was reported that newly hired Yahoo! Inc. CEO Marissa Mayer is starting her job at more than six months pregnant, which many say breaks new ground for Fortune 500 companies. Read Montreal Gazette story

”It is simply an example of what is happening because of the changing demographics in the workforce. Girls are demonstrably doing better in high school. I think a majority of students are women in most (if not all) professional university programs. There are more and more women in the professional and managerial ranks. Many women are having their children in their late 30s and early 40s after working for 15 or 20 years. Men are much more open to taking on the role of primary caregiver or househusband; there is less and less stigma - particularly in urban centres,” explains MacLeod.

Still, MacLeod, who says he receives lots of calls from pregnant women inquiring about their rights, says there is a big difference between small employers and large public companies when it comes to pregnancy.

“If you employ five key people and one person takes a one year pregnancy leave it is very difficult to replace that person. If you employ 500 senior executives, it is not difficult finding a replacement for a maternity leave,” he explains.

The work/family balance is a tough issue for all employers, says MacLeod, with industry culture and company culture often dictating the kind of balance that is possible at any given workplace.

”In my experience, the more entrepreneurial the workplace the less balance you find. Working in this environment is a lifestyle choice; people who want a good balance need not apply,” he says.

”Bottom line: most employers want to hire the best and brightest and are looking to make a long-term investment in these people. A maternity leave or two does not tip the scale away from making this investment,” he adds.

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