Is maternity leave being abused?

Natasha Kaplinsky's recent decision to quit Channel Five just two weeks after returning from maternity leave has caused debate

News that Natasha Kaplinsky is to leave her six-figure job as a newsreader at Channel 5, having spent much of her three years at the broadcaster on maternity leave, has angered many people.

Kaplinsky joined Channel 5 with much fanfare at the beginning of 2008 to anchor both its nightly news bulletins on a contract reputedly worth £1million a year. The deal made herBritain’s highest-paid newsreader.

However, just six weeks later she announced that she was pregnant and took six months’ maternity leave around the birth of her son, Arlo, in September 2008.
When she returned to Channel 5 in February 2009, she reputedly took a £300,000 pay cut in return for only doing the early evening bulletin.

By October 2009, Kaplinsky was pregnant again and gave birth to her daughter Angelica Pearl in April this year – once again taking six months’ maternity leave.

Critics say her actions will put many employers off hiring women and say that it’s no wonder women still struggle for parity in the workplace when maternity leave is ‘abused’ in this way.

Do her critics have a point? Could her behaviour be construed as inappropriate and advantageous? Is she giving maternity leave a bad name?

Alternatively, is it wrong to judge someone for taking the maternity leave they are rightly entitled to? Does her predicament only prove how difficult it is to have a career and a family?

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