Shocking levels of discrimination reveal need for better support for women and their managers
Published: 24 Jul 2015
New research by the Equality and Human Rights Commission highlights the disturbing extent to which women experience pregnancy and maternity discrimination in the workplace. it reflects the experiences of many of the callers to the Working Families legal helpline who find themselves subject to harassment, exclusion and negative comments when they tell their employer that they are pregnant or return to work after maternity leave.
Mandy had worked for a bank on a zero-hours contract for several months without any indication from her employer of dissatisfaction with her work. However, when Mandy informed her employer she was pregnant, her manager stated there had been complaints about her work. And, when Mandy challenged this, the manager changed the story to “you haven’t been working hard enough”. Mandy’s hours were then reduced to zero. In effect, she was summarily dismissed.
Discrimination against pregnant women and those on maternity leave is unlawful. There are ways for women to ensure that they are not one of those 54,000 being forced out of their jobs in Britain each year.
Sarah Jackson, CEO of Working Families said:
“We help thousands of women each year, informing them of their rights and enabling them to challenge discrimination in their workplace. No one should face discrimination and anyone that does should be supported to confront it.
When women are forced out of work it’s a dreadful waste of skills and talents which this country needs.”
The EHRC project found that whilst 84% of employers believe that supporting pregnant workers and those on maternity leave is in the interests of their business, only 66% of mothers felt that their employer supported them willingly during pregnancy and when they returned to work.
When Alex returned to work from maternity leave, her shift pattern was changed by her employer, without her agreement. Alex rang our helpline as she was unable to comply with it due to her childcare responsibilities. The helpline team helped Alex to fight the change. She was successful and importantly, remains with her employer, working the shift pattern she had prior to her maternity leave.
“The research also shows the reality gap. Employers would like to get it right and know that they need to do better in order to retain the talents of their pregnant women and new mothers.
“Organisations often have good intentions and the right policies but unless line managers are properly trained in maternity rights and are supported in their management of pregnant women and new mothers this is where it can, and often does, go wrong.”