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Clamping down on discrimination in the workplace towards pregnant women

Workplace discrimination towards pregnant women

In today’s age of equality, is there still discrimination in the workplace towards mothers or pregnant women? The human rights watchdog is alarmed at the amount of women’s careers that are suffering due to  becoming a mother, and has since signalled a major clampdown on the companies to blame.

The chief executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission has expressed how alarmed he was with evidence that mothers are still being forced out of jobs or passed over for a promotion, decades after gender discrimination was outlawed.

The first official study for 10 years

The Culture Secretary Maria Miller, handed the Commission £1 million to carry out the investigation. This is the first official study on this issue for a decade and it’s estimated more than 9000 women have raised claims for pregnancy discrimination during this time. Maria Miller expressed her concerns saying it was  “unacceptable that women are still feeling undervalued and penalised after having children”. This follows a number of studies and anonymous surveys which suggests that women being overlooked for promotion after returning from maternity leave, is widespread.

The Office for National Statistics carried out a recent study charting changes to the workplace over the last 40 years. It showed young women starting careers are just as likely to be paid the top wage as their male counterparts and the average age for having children is now 30. The study also found that almost 200,000 cohabiting or married mothers are returning to work – the biggest increase in a decade – however, they face lower wages and lower statuses than their male colleagues.

Other research found two thirds of working mothers would advise pregnant colleagues not to tell their boss they were pregnant until the last possible date, just to avoid discrimination.

Mr Hammond said: “It is very concerning that in 2013 a number of women are still being disadvantaged in the workplace just because they are pregnant. That would be unlawful discrimination and needs to be tackled. We will look at existing research, gather new evidence and carry out our expert analysis to establish the extent of the problem and advise on how best it can to be addressed. I am determined that we tackle these systemic problems which leave women feeling undervalued and penalised. We have made some significant changes to help women at work but there is more to do. This new research will be crucial in helping us to understand the extent of the problem and the issues around it.”

Further statistics

Slater & Gordon, a law firm, commissioned a recent survey detailing the following:

  •  A third of mothers said they found it impossible to climb the career ladder after returning to work from maternity leave.
  • Over a third of women believed they had to work harder after having children 
  • The same amount of women expressed they had no support from their employer while they were pregnant
  • A worrying 3 in 10 women said they had been treated badly during maternity leave.

Kiran Daurka of Slater & Gordon said: “Mothers – whether expecting children or returning to work – are a vital part of Britain’s workforce. We need to treat them better. We are delighted to hear that the EHRC is to undertake some very important and much needed work around maternity discrimination.”



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