Universities do less for the work-life balance of their staff than a budget supermarket chain, lecturers' union Natfhe claimed this week.
Natfhe said that while women in post-1992 universities got a paltry two weeks of maternity leave on full pay, followed by four weeks on 90 per cent pay and 12 weeks on half pay, those in Asda received 26 weeks on full pay.
"It is disappointing that universities do not wish to provide the highest standard of good employment practice found elsewhere - and ironic as they suffer from under-representation of women and struggle with recruitment and retention problems," Natfhe general secretary Paul Mackney said.
The union is seeking 18 weeks on full pay and eight weeks on half-pay, with adoptive parents entitled to the same benefits.
The claim was made as the Employment Act 2002 came into force last week.
The legislation, designed to improve the "work-life balance", will enable women to seek improved maternity rights.
"It is not just maternity pay that must be addressed," Mr Mackney said.
"Life and work patterns are changing. Universities must keep up with this or we shall see higher education suffering from its inflexibility."