A new survey has revealed 75% of pregnant women and new mums face discrimination in the workplace [Photo: Rex Features]
As Lucy* sat in the stuffy boardroom, she tried hard to concentrate on what her colleague was saying. Not because she didn’t care or wasn’t interested, she found it hard to focus because at that precise moment she should have been attending an antenatal appointment listening to her unborn baby’s heartbeat. Instead, she was at a team meeting her boss insisted she attend.
Lucy’s experience is far from uncommon. A worrying new survey has revealed that a staggering three quarters of pregnant women and working mums face discrimination in the workplace, with one in nine losing their job as a result.
The research found one in five mums claim to have 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, like Lucy.
One in five mums claim to have experienced harassment or negative comments in the workplace [Photo: Rex Features]
And the discrimination doesn’t stop once pregnancy ends, with the survey also uncovering that the majority of mums who worked had missed out on promotion, were denied training and even threatened with the sack.
But the research, conducted by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) found that of the 3,000 mothers surveyed, only one in four raised it with their employer, with less than one per cent taking cases to tribunal.
The £1,200 cost of taking a case to a tribunal was cited as a potential barrier, as well as a lack of information, fear of repercussions and the stress of pursuing a claim.
Caroline Waters of the EHRC said ministers must take urgent action to tackle the problem.
“We simply cannot ignore the true scale of the hidden discrimination that working mothers face,” she said.
“This is unacceptable in modern Britain, and urgent action is needed to ensure women are able to challenge discrimination and unfairness,” she continued.
“This is why we are calling on Government to look at the barriers working pregnant women and mothers face in accessing justice.”
The work/motherhood juggle is tough for many women [Photo: Rex Features]
Of the problems women face while pregnant or even before pregnancy, the survey found one in four employers thought it was reasonable to question women during a job interview about plans to have a family. While three in four mums who didn’t get a job after being interviewed while pregnant believed it had affected their chance of being hired.
So what can we do about it? Following on from the report the EHRC recommendations include more stringent measures to prevent employers asking in job interviews about a woman’s pregnancy or her intention to have children, looking into lowering fees for employment tribunals and exploring the feasibility of a collective insurance scheme to help small employers provide enhanced maternity pay, similar to a scheme run in Denmark.
One in 10 pregnant workers said they were discouraged from attending antenatal appointments [Photo: Rex Features]
Whatever the measures introduced, it’s clear something has to be done to tackle the pregnancy and maternity-related discrimination faced by so many women. Because neither pregnancy nor motherhood should be a barrier to being great at your job.
What do you think needs to be done to protect women from pregnancy and maternity-related discrimination? Let us know @YahooStyleUK