United Kingdom: Worrying levels of maternity-related discrimination
The results of a large-scale survey show a high prevalence of pregnancy and maternity-related discrimination experienced by mothers in the workplace.
The UK government in March published the results of a large-scale survey into the prevalence and nature of pregnancy- and maternity-related discrimination in the workplace. Three-quarters of mothers (77%) said they had a negative or possibly discriminatory experience during pregnancy, maternity leave, or on return from maternity leave, while 11% reported they felt forced to leave their job, either through dismissal, compulsory redundancy or feeling so poorly treated that they had to resign. One-fifth (20%) reported experiencing harassment or negative comments related to pregnancy or flexible working from their employer or colleagues, while around half (51%) who had a flexible working request approved said they felt it resulted in negative consequences.
The majority of employers (84%) reported that it was in their interests to support pregnant women and those on maternity leave, and the majority were positive about managing most of the statutory rights relating to pregnancy and maternity (for each statutory right, more than half of employers felt it was reasonable and easy to facilitate). However, some employers felt particular statutory rights were unreasonable or difficult to manage: 28% said that enhanced protection from redundancy during ordinary maternity leave was unreasonable. Most employers (70%) said they felt women should declare during recruitment if they are pregnant, and a quarter felt it was reasonable during recruitment to ask women about their plans to have children. Although the majority of employers felt that pregnant women and mothers returning from maternity leave were as committed to work as other employees, 27% felt pregnancy placed unreasonable costs on the workplace and 17% believed that pregnant women and mothers were less interested in career progression and promotion than other employees.
The government has published its response to the recommendations of the report, which address a range of improvements in employer practices.