Three in four working mums face discrimination at work

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More than three quarters of pregnant women and new mothers experience negative and potentially discriminatory treatment at work each year, according to new research.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission is calling for the Government to take urgent action as the study shows the equivalent of 390,000 women experience negative and potentially discriminatory treatment at work each year.

The research, carried out in partnership with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, shows despite 77 per cent of working mothers reporting potentially discriminatory or negative experiences, only around a quarter (28 per cent) raised the issue with their employer, only 3 per cent went through their employer’s internal grievance procedure, and less than 1 per cent pursued a claim to the employment tribunal.

The survey of more than 3,000 mothers and 3,000 employers shows a range of reasons for this including the financial cost of pursuing a claim, fear of negative repercussions at work, lack of information about their rights, and stress and tiredness.

Since the introduction in 2013 of tribunal fees of up to £1,200, the number of sex discrimination cases has dropped by 76% and pregnancy-related cases fell by 50%1.

The research also reveals the majority of employers (70 per cent) thought a woman should declare at recruitment stage if they were pregnant, and a quarter thought that it was reasonable to question women of childbearing age at interview about their plans to have children. In addition to this, three in four (77 per cent) mothers that were unsuccessful in their job interviews undertaken while pregnant (where the employer had known about their pregnancy) felt it had affected their chances of success.

The Commission is calling for the Government to take more effective steps to prevent employers asking during the recruitment process about a woman’s pregnancy or her intention to have children, as well as looking at schemes to improve maternity pay, and easing the employment tribunals process.

Caroline Waters, Deputy Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission said:

“We simply cannot ignore the true scale of the hidden discrimination that working mothers face. This is unacceptable in modern Britain, and urgent action is needed to ensure women are able to challenge discrimination and unfairness.

“We want to make workplaces fairer for everyone and get rid of outdated practices like asking women during job interviews whether they intend to have children. For businesses to thrive, they need to harness the talents, skills and experience of all employees. We are calling on employers, regulatory bodies and the voluntary sector to make vital changes needed to improve the lived experiences of British workplaces so they are the best they can be for everyone.”