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27th August, 2013

Over 25% of mothers feel discriminated against in workplace

A new survey suggests that over a quarter of mothers in the UK feel discriminated against at work.

A survey of almost 2,000 mothers, commissioned by law firm Slater and Gordon has found that over 25% of mothers feel discriminated against at work. The survey also highlighted that 35% of women said their workplace was not supportive of their situation when they were pregnant and some 27% felt under pressure to return to work earlier than they wanted to. Over half of the women surveyed thought the attitudes of colleagues and bosses towards them changed once they had announced their pregnancy to the extent that two thirds of working mums said that they would advise women to postpone telling their bosses they are pregnant until the last possible moment.

The women surveyed also raised opinions that the alleged discrimination has prevented them from furthering their career.

A third of those surveyed said they found it impossible to climb the career ladder even though 35% thought that they worked harder since having children. 29% believed that they had been overlooked for promotion because they had responsibilities as a mother.

Of the 25% of mothers who felt they had been discriminated against at work, 48% felt overlooked for a promotion, 18% felt demoted and 35% had had responsibility taken away them.

Although England’s employment minister, Jo Swinson said, “The government is committed to making sure that more businesses make the best use of women’s talents throughout the organisation, from boardroom to the shop floor”, mothers still feel that their career prospects are suffering as a result of discrimination. Last month, former Labour minister Yvette Cooper revealed that she had felt “cut off” by Whitehall officials when she was on maternity leave for the second time.

While the survey shows that many women are of the same opinion, employers have differing views.

The survey highlighted a profound discrepancy between the views of mothers and employers.

Neil Carberry, director of employment and skills at the CBI said that they “did not recognise” the picture presented by the survey and stated that “businesses are better than ever at managing maternity leave and reintegrating mothers on their return”.

However, many mothers did not share this view, with 54% of those surveyed saying they felt their employer could do more to support working mums.

Mr Carberry did reiterate that discrimination against a woman on the basis of pregnancy was wrong and that if subjected to such treatment women “should feel confident to raise a grievance”.

The issue remains unresolved for mothers due to lack of whistleblowing.

Despite Mr Carberry’s comments, it would appear that such confidence is in very short supply. Of those questioned, 70% of mothers had never made a formal complaint about unfair treatment and of these, 26% did not want to “rock the boat”.

The fact the issue is seldom discussed means the true extent of the problem remains unknown, and this widespread reluctance to speak out in turn allows employers, according to Slater and Gordon employment lawyer Kiran Daurka, “to bury their heads in the sand”.

Ms Daurka went on the say, “We need to get the issues out there. I hope this topic will become more openly discussed and, as women realise they are not alone, have rights and can take action, we can move forward.”

As an employer, are you doing enough to protect your employees from pregnancy related discrimination?

It is of paramount importance that as an employer, you do not discriminate against women due to pregnancy or maternity. Pregnancy and maternity is a protected characteristic under Section 4 of the Equality Act 2010, and therefore if your employee feels they have been treated unfavourably, you could face an employment tribunal.

In addition, it is important to follow the correct procedures with regard to maternity leave and redundancies to avoid discrimination.

For further information or advice in relation to discrimination and ensuring you are following correct procedures, please contact Helen Watson on 01244 405565 or send an email to [email protected].


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