UK Politics

Lord Sugar queries job interview laws for mothers

Lord Sugar
Image caption Lord Sugar has employed women in the last two series of The Apprentice

Laws banning bosses from asking women about children and childcare plans during job interviews are counterproductive, Lord Sugar has said.

The star of BBC One's The Apprentice urged applicants to be "forthcoming" and not create a "charade".

But, during a Lords debate ahead of the centenary of International Women's Day, the Labour peer called most women in business "determined and ambitious".

He added that the last two Apprentice winners had been female.

International Women's Day, first celebrated in 1911, takes place next Tuesday, with activities planned in dozens of countries.

Among the themes incorporated into this year's event is the United Nations campaign calling for a "pathway to decent work for women".

Lord Sugar has spoken out in the past on the issue of laws, stating that female job applicants cannot be asked about their children, or whether they are pregnant.

He told peers he had provoked a "knee-jerk reaction" from people who "don't want to hear what I'm saying".

He said: "I believe the employment regulations for women whereby the prospective employer is not able to inquire about the interviewee's status regarding children or childcare, or indeed their intention of becoming a parent, are counterproductive. Some women may agree with me on this.

"As things stand, regardless of current laws and regulations, interviewers are forced to play out some kind of psychological charade where they know their obligations under law but effectively in some cases make up their mind in advance about the prospects of employing the person sitting in front of them.

"I say women should be forthcoming when being interviewed, declaring their status regarding children and childcare so as to pre-empt the unanswerable questions in the mind of the interviewer and then focus on the most important thing - what skills they can bring to the company and why they should be employed."

Lord Sugar added: "I would be very impressed by a person who settled the matter at the outset, telling me how they are going to organise their life in order to do their job but, more importantly, how they are going to get on with the job in hand, what they are going to bring to the party, because such people would jump up in my estimation."

The multimillionaire businessman pointed out that The Apprentice had been won by a woman for the last two years, adding: "One of them is now on maternity leave. She has done a very good job and, of course, her position will be completely open to her when she returns."

'Business case unarguable'

He said: "In the past 40 years, I have had the good fortune to employ a number of women in senior executive positions. I have to say I have found women in business to be very focussed, determined and ambitious.

"Indeed, in top management positions they seem to place little importance on building ego and simply get on with the job in hand in a very efficient manner."

During the Lords debate, Conservative Baroness Heyhoe Flint, a former England women's cricket team captain, called for more female representation on the boards of sports organisations.

The peer, who is also vice-president of Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club, said: "It is sport that will help to tackle issues such as obesity, self-esteem and prejudice. The image and profile of females in sport could be helped enormously if more women were represented on the boards of sports governing bodies, providing of course they merit such an appointment and are not merely the statutory women."

She added: "The business case is unarguable. The presence of suitably qualified women will provide a balance of skills and perspective.

"I certainly wouldn't advocate a quota system. I don't believe legislation is the route. No breaking of the glass ceiling - more a level playing field."

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