Over half of working mums have experienced or witnessed discrimination linked to pregnancy or maternity leave, according to a Workingmums.co.uk poll.
The poll found 57% of women said they had experienced or witnessed discrimination, compared to 35% who had not and 8% who weren’t sure.
Of those who said they had witnessed or experienced discrimination, the examples ranged from one women who it in both the private and the charity sector. Another said she applied for a promotion when pregnant and was not shortlisted for interview because “the timing is all wrong for you”.
Another said she was given a promotion based on her not getting pregnant. Yet another said it goes on all the time, but “you just can’t prove it”.
One woman described the impact of discrimination on her: “I was the head of marketing. After a miscarriage I was told off in a meeting regarding my hormones. Soon after I had an ectopic pregnancy. When I returned to work my boss said he was giving more responsibilities to my assistant and a few months later he made me leave. For some reason it devastated me.”
A report last year by the Equality & Human Rights Commission suggested around 54,000 new mothers may be forced out of their job in Britain each year as a result of maternity and pregnancy-related discrimination. Many women don’t taken any action against their employers because they are more focused on the birth of their child or looking after very young babies.
The campaign Pregnant Then Screwed is campaigning for a change in the law so that women do not have to take action in such cases within three months of the discrimination taking place.
Linda Stewart, Head of Employment Law Simpson Millar and an expert on Workingmums.co.uk’s website, said: “Employers have repeatedly failed to appreciate that subjecting pregnant women to insidious ‘hormone’ jibes, aside from being unlawful, is ultimately damaging to business. The reality is that neither men nor women of talent are attracted to workplaces where gender inequality is rife; what’s more, savvy customers and clients are increasingly distancing themselves from companies that fail to nurture female talent. Women, particularly those in senior roles, rarely stay for long; they leave through the revolving doors of fellow female workers who, because of pregnancy are either overlooked for promotion, bullied or harassed out of their jobs.”