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Should your sex life be part of the workplace?

Can you imagine going into work in the morning and seeing a huge jar of condoms placed on one of the communal desks, ready for any of the employees to dip into and take?

That’s what’s on offer to the employees at Australia’s largest radio company, Southern Cross Austereo, in Perth to discourage them from having children.

Linda Wayman, who runs SCA’s radio stations Mix 94.5 and Hit 92.9, spoke at a Mumbrella conference in Perth this week, saying more than one-third of her employees are on maternity leave or covering for someone who is.

“Thirty-five per cent of my staff at the moment are on a maternity leave contract or maternity leave and that’s significant” she said.

“We do have a big jar of condoms at work. I’m not lying, I’m not exaggerating. I do encourage people regularly, to have sex with condoms. That is a big area of focus for me, encouraging people to have sex with condoms.”

Wayman is so worried about her staff getting pregnant that she’s even opposed to any legislation that enforces the reemployment of staff into part-time roles.

“I don’t agree with the union push at the moment that women coming back to work automatically should be allowed to come back part-time. I’d love to, but I’d be lying if I said that was wonderful. It’s an idealistic and anti-commercial stance.”

Women get pregnant. It happens. And too often it is seen as a financial and social burden for the company as employees go on maternity leave. Some women decide to take time off to have a baby and raise a family, something our current workplace dynamic, which developed during the industrial revolution and favours men in the way it operates, does not always support. But is it right for big business to interfere with employees’ sex lives and reproduction goals?

One mother and CEO of company PowerToFly, Katharine Zaleski, says she used to be one of those high-flying bosses who would dismiss mothers for not being committed enough to their jobs because of the responsibilities to their children.

“I didn’t disagree when another female editor said we should hurry up and fire another woman before she ‘got pregnant,'” she wrote in an essay in Fortune.

“I scheduled last minute meetings at 4:30pm all of the time. It didn’t dawn on me that parents might need to pick up their kids at daycare.”

But having a child herself made her realise women with children make choices based on their personal circumstance.

“I didn’t realise how horrible I’d been until five years later, when I gave birth to a daughter,” Zaleski admits.

“I wish I had known five years ago, as a young, childless manager, that mothers are the people you need on your team. There’s a saying that ‘if you want something done then ask a busy person to do it.’ That’s exactly why I like working with mothers now.”

Some flexibility in the workplace and support for women who decide to raise a family as well as work, and a bit of understanding from the corporate world that mums in the workplace are not a liability would go a long way. Perhaps a lot more so than a jar of condoms.

More on women in the workplace

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Does excluding men from Q&A‘s feminism panel legitimise the debate?
Now that Tony Abbott is a #HeForShe campaigner we can put him to work

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