Councillor suggests maternity leave costs could be avoided by “Hiring more mature women”

A COUNCILLOR has been blasted after suggesting maternity leave costs could be avoided by hiring “more mature” women.

Conservative member Terry Mendies was slammed as “discriminatory against women” after making the comments during a Denbighshire Council performance scrutiny committee meeting at Ruthin’s County Hall.

The Alyn Valley councillor made the comments during a debate about the council’s corporate risks, including the cost of social care, in terms of recruitment and the retention of staff.

The report acknowledged a national recruitment and retention crisis in social care as officers explained many staff sought better paid and less challenging roles elsewhere, such as in supermarkets.

The report added: “Many new starters are younger, newly qualified staff, and rates of maternity leave in some teams are high.”

During these discussions, Cllr Mendies asked officers why the council did not target “more mature” women when recruiting to avoid having to pay for maternity leave and cover.

Cllr Mendies said: “You are saying that you are recruiting for care workers, that you are recruiting younger staff, and then they are going on maternity leave.

“So if we have to pay, or the rate payer has to pay maternity leave for a period of six months, then we’ve probably got to use agency staff to cover them, and that’s an extra cost.

“So why would you not target the recruitment to be a bit more… erm… a bit more mature people?”

The council’s corporate director Gary Williams responded: “The first thing I would say in terms of recruitment is that the authority recruits without favour of anyone in respect of any protected characteristic, and people who apply for jobs are recruited on the basis of their knowledge, their skills, and their experience, not their gender or their age.

“So that’s a really important point to make.

“The local authority applies all of the appropriate equalities safeguards in terms of its recruitment process, and its recruitment process is fully compliant with that.”

Cllr Julie Matthews, the council’s lead member for corporate strategy, policy and equalities, blasted Cllr Mendies’ comments.

She said: “Can I just address the point that Cllr Mendies made in his question?

“As lead member for equalities, I do find that the comment he made is wholly inappropriate to elude that the authority should exclude women of a certain age or anybody with a protected characteristic under the Equality Act in terms of recruitment.

“The remarks were discriminatory against women and wholly inappropriate.”

The council’s head of corporate support services, Helen Vaughan-Evans, was then asked by the meeting’s chairman Cllr Hugh Irving if she would like to comment.

She responded: “I didn’t have my hand up, chair, but I support Cllr Julie (Matthews) in her statement.”

Story by Richard Evans

Picture courtesy of LDRS Partners

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