Employers in the ‘dark ages’ when recruiting pregnant women and new mothers

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Worrying research from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) shows the wrongful attitude some companies have towards recruiting pregnant women and new mothers.

Recruiting women – what does the research find?

The research, conducted by YouGov on behalf of the EHRC, surveyed 1,106 private sector employers who are key decision makers in business.

This is what the research found:

Recruiting pregnant women and women with children:

  • Around a third (36%) of private sector employers think it’s reasonable to ask women about their plans to have children in the future during recruitment.
  • Six in 10 (59%) employers say that a woman should have to disclose whether she is pregnant during the recruitment process.
  • Almost half (46%) of employers think it’s reasonable to ask women if they have young children during the recruitment process.

WHAT THE LAW SAYS: You don’t have to tell your employer or a prospective employer until 15 weeks before you’re due to give birth. As 37 weeks is considered to be full term, that means you must tell your employer by week 22.

Women with children in the workplace:

The research also looked at maternity rights in the workplace and what employers thought was fair. The results are depressing, to say the least.

  • Over four in ten (44%) of employers believe that women should work for an organisation for at least a year before deciding to have children.
  • Over four in ten (44%) of employers say women who have had more than one pregnancy while in the same job can be a ‘burden’ to their team.
  • Four in ten (40%) of employers claim to have seen at least one pregnant woman in their workplace ‘take advantage’ of their pregnancy.
  • A third of employers believe that women who become pregnant and new mothers in work are ‘generally less interested in career progression’ when compared to other employees in their company. 

Attitudes towards pregnant women in the workplace:

  • Four in 10 (41%) employers say that having to deal with pregnancy in their workforce puts ‘an unnecessary cost burden’ on them.
  • Half (51%) of employers say there’s sometimes resentment amongst employees towards women who are pregnant or on maternity leave.
  • Around a third (36%) of employers don’t think it’s easy to protect expectant or new mothers from discrimination in the workplace.

What needs to change?

There’s a brilliant organisation called Pregnant Then Screwed, which lets women share their stories of discrimination. It’s also campaigning to improve current legislation. Its founder, Joeli Brearly, told SavvyWoman:

”The perception that mothers fall behind, are less committed or ambitious is absurd. Women are very capable of using both their brains and their uterus simultaneously.

The fact is that companies with more women in senior positions are more prosperous and profitable, therefore it is in the interest of employers to eliminate conscious and unconscious bias towards pregnant women and new mums.

Those employers who are reluctant to hire women of childbearing age as they fear they pose a ‘maternity risk,’ are likely to belong to companies with fewer women in senior positions. It also means that you are not recruiting the best person for the job which makes no sense whatsoever.”

You can share your story anonymously, and find out more about Pregnant Then Screwed on its website: http://pregnantthenscrewed.com

What can employers do?

The Equality and Human Rights Commission is asking employers to join the Working Forward campaign. Here, businesses commit to taking action on at least two or three areas in addition to leadership.

These are: employee confidence, supporting line managers and flexible working. It also provides employers with advice, guidance and resources to deliver on their pledges.

Useful links:

ACAS has lots of information on your rights in the workplace: http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=5271

Related articles:

Maternity rights at work; what are your pregnancy rights at work?

100 years – what’s changed for women and money?

If you want to take maternity leave, do you have to tell your mortgage lender?

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