CIPD (Grace Lewis): Study shows treatment of women during pregnancy and maternity deteriorating. Thousands of new mothers are being forced out of their jobs every year, after being dismissed, made redundant or treated badly at work, research from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has found. In a survey of 3,254 mothers with a child under two, and 3,034 workplaces across the UK, one in ten (11 per cent) women reported being edged out of work or treated so poorly on their return from maternity leave, they had to leave their jobs.
If replicated across the population as a whole, as many as 54,000 women could be losing their jobs each year, the EHRC said.
Despite 84 per cent of employers stating that assisting pregnant workers and those on maternity leave is in the interests of their organisations, just 66 per cent of mothers felt their employer supported them willingly during pregnancy and when they returned to work.
According to the research, 10 per cent of females were discouraged from attending antenatal appointments by their employer, and 9 per cent faced worse treatment by their employer when they returned to the workplace.
When mothers were allowed to work flexibly, more than half of their careers suffered as a consequence, with 29 per cent stating they received fewer work opportunities, 18 per cent feeling their opinion was less valued and 15 per cent given more junior tasks than previously.
Caroline Waters, deputy chair of the EHRC, said discrimination was both unlawful and bad for business.
And Dianah Worman, the CIPD’s diversity adviser, said: “The findings of this important research show how employers are losing female talent by default. It’s a wake-up call about checking against weak employment practices that cause such negative experiences for mums who want to work.
“At a time when the war for talent is hotting up, action is essential. It’s nonsense for talent to be wasted and discrimination in pregnancy and maternity, whether intended or not, is an urgent area to be addressed.”
Sarah Jackson, chief executive of Working Families, said while organisations may have “good intentions and the right policies”, it was essential that line managers are properly trained in maternity rights and encouraged a culture of inclusion.
Today’s research is accompanied by the launch of the #worksforme awareness initiative to reduce pregnancy and maternity discrimination.
But Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC said measures should go further: “Today’s report should also act as a wake-up call to ministers. If they want more employers to comply with the law they shouldn’t be charging women up to £1,200 to pursue a pregnancy discrimination claim.”
The EHRC figures show that discrimination against pregnant women and new mothers is still prevalent across the UK. The last comprehensive study on these issues was undertaken in 2005, by the Equal Opportunities Commission, which estimated that 30,000 mothers (7 per cent) were forced out of their jobs each year.
Denise Keating, chief executive of enei, said: “Unlawful discrimination, on such a large scale, is shocking evidence that much more work is required in both educating new mothers of their rights under the Equality Act 2010 and educating business about the value that new mothers can bring.”