Pregnant at work  

How does your workplace add up?

Many employers in Britain do not make life easy for pregnant women in the workplace.

Three-quarters of pregnant women and new mothers experience discrimination and harassment at work and one in nine lose their job as a result, government-commissioned research has found.

The report suggests that illegal pregnancy discrimination has risen significantly since 2005, when just 45 percent of women said they had experienced such discrimination.

One in five mothers said they experienced harassment or negative comments in the workplace related to pregnancy or flexible working and one in 10 said they were discouraged from attending antenatal appointments.

The results equated to 390,000 women experiencing discrimination across Britain.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (ECHR), which commissioned the report with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, urged the government to take urgent action to address the problem.

The survey of more than 3,000 mothers and 3,000 employers suggested a number of reasons for the escalating problem, including employment tribunal fees of up to £1,200 introduced in 2013, fear of negative repercussions at work, lack of information about rights and the stress of making a claim.

While most employers said it was in their interests to support women who are either pregnant or on maternity leave, a significant minority expressed negative views. About a quarter felt pregnancy put an unreasonable cost burden on the workplace and a similar proportion suggested it was reasonable to ask women in job interviews whether they planned to have children.

The minister for women and equalities, Nicky Morgan, and the business secretary, Sajid Javid, said in a joint statement:

“It will take coordinated action from government, the EHRC and business – at all levels and of all sizes as well as stakeholders – to truly tackle pregnancy and maternity-related discrimination in the workplace and stamp it out for good.”

Three-quarters of mothers questioned who were unsuccessful in job interviews felt the employer’s knowledge of their pregnancy had affected their chances. Following from this point, the EHRC are working on stronger steps stronger steps to prevent employers asking in job interviews about a woman’s pregnancy or her intention to have children.

The EHRC also suggest the government should look at lowering the fees for employment tribunals and explore the feasibility of a collective insurance scheme to help small and medium employers provide enhanced pay and cover for maternity leave.

What Mothers Reported In The Survey:

  • Overall, three in four mothers (77%) said they had a negative or possibly discriminatory experience during pregnancy, maternity leave, and/or on return from maternity leave.
  • Around one in nine mothers (11%) reported they felt forced to leave their job. This included those being dismissed (1%); made compulsorily redundant, where others in their workplace were not (1%); or feeling treated so poorly they felt they had to leave their job (9%).
  • One in five mothers (20%) said they experienced harassment or negative comments related to pregnancy or flexible working from their employer/colleagues. One in 25 mothers (4%) left their jobs because of risks not being tackled.
  • One in ten (10%) mothers were discouraged from attending antenatal appointments. Over two thirds of mothers (68%) submitted a flexible working request and around three in four of these mothers reported that their flexible working request was approved.
  • Around half of mothers (51%) who had their flexible working request approved said they felt it resulted in negative consequences.

Conclusion:

There is obviously a still a good deal of work to do with addressing the problem of harassment and discrimination regarding pregnancy in Britain’s workplaces.