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New Mums Discriminated Against in the Workplace

A new survey has found that more than 50,000 mothers could be forced out of their jobs as a result of discrimination in the workplace.

The news comes following a survey of mothers in the workplace from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) which analysed responses from more 3,200 working women. Of those 3,200 participants, 11% admitted that they had been dismissed, lost their job or been treated so badly that they were forced to leave their place of employment. Had the survey been replicated on a national level, 54,000 mothers would have lost their job.

Maternity Rights in the Workplace

The survey, which looked to analyse harassment in the workplace and the treatment of women, also found that there was a major issue when workers took maternity leave, returned to work, or when they were at the later stages of pregnancy. One in five mothers said that they had experienced harassment or negative comments from their colleagues or boss during a pregnancy or on their return.

Alarmingly, the survey, which was also carried out using data from the Department of Business Innovation and Skills, found that 9% of women were treated worse by their employer following their return from maternity leave than they were treated prior to their maternity leave. Following maternity leave, 7% of those questioned stated that they felt pressured to hand in their notice, with 10% stating that they felt discouraged by their employer from attending antenatal appointments or any other matter regarding maternity.

In terms of age, younger mothers were discriminated against more than older mothers, with 6% of mothers under 25 feeling that they were dismissed unreasonably. This was in comparison to 1% of those who were dismissed but had not taken any maternity leave or been pregnant.

Caroline Waters, deputy chair of the EHRC, said: “This research reveals the worrying levels of discrimination and disadvantage at work that women still face today. Not only is discrimination unlawful, but it is also bad for business.”

Employers’ Views on Maternity Leave

As well as measuring the harassment and treatment of mothers who took maternity leave, the study aimed to analyse businesses’ stances on maternity leave and some of the issues experienced by employees. Even though the survey indicated that there were higher rates of discrimination towards females who were pregnant or taking maternity leave, 84% of employers said they believed supporting those who had returned from maternity leave was in the best interests of their organisations.

Around 80% felt that pregnant women returning from maternity leave were just as committed to their work as their colleagues while two-thirds said they didn’t think pregnancy put an unreasonable cost burden on the workplace.

Dianah Worman, diversity adviser for the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, the professional body for HR, 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.

“It's time for employers to do some housekeeping in their organisations to make sure hidden problems and difficulties are surfaced and dealt with quickly to ensure they have both diverse and inclusive working environments.

“This will allow them to benefit from the added value women can contribute. 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.”

Maternity Discrimination in the Workplace

Under the Equality Act, an employer is not allowed to discriminate or dismiss someone based on maternity leave. Maternity or paternity leave is not allowed to be taken into consideration when assessing the performance of an employee or their future at the company. Employers are not allowed to cite maternity leave as an illness, and when informed they must carry out the relevant health and safety checks to ensure that the workplace is safe for someone to work in while expecting.

Contact Workplace Discrimination Solicitors in London & Maidenhead

Discrimination cases can be costly in terms of finance and time. Kalra Legal Group can handle such legal matters for you, allowing you to focus on the key aspects of running a business. Get in touch with our team of employment experts using our online contact form - click here.

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