Marissa Mayer made headlines last week after announcing that not only had she landed the top job at Yahoo! but that she is 6 months pregnant and intends to work throughout her maternity leave.
Mayer, one of Google's top executives, will be the next chief executive officer of Yahoo!, making her one of the most prominent women in Silicon Valley and in corporate America.
Mayer finds herself to be the only leader of a Fortune 500 company ever to be appointed while pregnant. The media are declaring this a great leap for womankind but shortly after her announcements Mayer has found herself under attack for ‘failing women’ by suggesting that the impending birth of her child won’t stop her doing her job.
Mayer has also praised Yahoo! for “their evolved thinking” in not questioning her about her pregnancy during the recruitment process but shouldn’t this be the norm?
Innes Clark, partner and employment lawyer at Morton Fraser Solicitors, was approached by the Scotland on Sunday for an expert view on the emerging story. He says that, far from being applauded, Yahoo’s stance should be the norm. “In one sense it is somewhat depressing that Yahoo’s approach is being widely celebrated given that, had this been a job vacancy in the UK and Ms Mayer had not been appointed because she was pregnant, then it would have been a very clear breach of the Equality Act”, said Clark, adding that if such a breach can be proved it would open a company up to a claim for uncapped damages.
Clark continued: “Leaving aside the issue of legal liability, it would be very short sighted for an employer to turn down the best candidate for the job because she is pregnant. If an employer was minded to do that then where does it end? Do they not appoint any female job candidates who might have a child at some point in the future?”