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Lord Sugar says employers should be able to ask applicants about pregnancy and children

11 March 2011 #Employment

Lord Sugar has said that laws banning employers from asking women about children and childcare plans during job interviews are counterproductive.

There is no law prohibiting an employer from asking a female job applicant about her plans regarding having children or childcare arrangements. However, it is highly inadvisable to ask such questions as the employer opens itself to claims of sex discrimination because if the employer does not give that female applicant the job there will be an inference that the decision was linked to the applicant`s answers regarding children and therefore linked to her sex. The employer is already on the backfoot before it has even started defending the claim.

Lord Sugar`s point appears to be that whether the female applicant will get pregnant and/or how she will deal with childcare features highly in the employer`s mind so why not be upfront about it? He says that the employer will make a judgment without asking anyway.

However, reality is that many employers, if given the opportunity, may well reject female applicants who plan on having children. It is clear that Lord Sugar does not have an issue with employing females of `childbearing age` - the last two winners of the apprentice have been young females, one of whom is reportedly on maternity leave now. Small employers may argue that Lord Sugar has the luxury of a large organisation that is equipped to deal with maternity absences, whilst such leave puts smaller businesses under enormous pressure that they would rather avoid. However, balancing the arguments, it cannot be right that females are denied jobs because they plan or may get pregnant. The law is there to protect those women.

The emphasis may shift in any event after 3 April this year when fathers will have the right to additional paternity leave the same as mothers. After that date employers wishing to avoid maternity/paternity leave would have to avoid both men and women of `childbearing age`, which covers a large spectrum of people. We have seen mothers getting older in recent years - what is a man of childbearing age?! Rod Stewart has just had another baby at 66!

Additional paternity leave will be available to parents of babies due on or after 3 April 2011 and to adoptive parents who are notified that they have been matched with a child for adoption on or after that date.

Clarkslegal, specialist Employment lawyers in London, Reading and throughout the Thames Valley.
For further information about this or any other Employment matter please contact Clarkslegal's employment team by email at by telephone 020 7539 8000 (London office), 0118 958 5321 (Reading office) or by completing the form on this page.
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