updated 7/6/2011 7:02:52 PM ET 2011-07-06T23:02:52

The head of a business group has been fired after asserting that menstruation makes women less productive in the workplace than men.

Alasdair Thompson, chief executive of New Zealand's Employers and Manufacturers Association, made the comments during a radio debate.

The BBC reported that Thompson sparked controversy by suggesting that women earned less than men because "once a month they have sick problems." He added that when women become mothers "they have to take time off to go home" to look after their children.

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Thompson told radio station NewstalkZB that he was not sexist and insisted that his comments were the "facts of life."

"Who takes the most sick leave?" he asked during the radio show on June 23. "Women do, in general."

In a statement, the EMA's board said it "considered this matter for some time" and felt that Thompson was "no longer able to continue" in the role.

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According to the BBC, Women's Affairs Minister Hekia Parata said Wednesday that Thompson's remarks were "unacceptable to a wide range of people."

But Helen Kelly, president of the Council of Trade Unions, told Newstalk ZB that firing Thompson was not enough.

She said the organization needed to take action to ensure "businesses understand discrimination is not in their interests and needs to be addressed."

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