Report shows high levels of maternity discrimination

High levels of maternity discrimination are taking place across the UK, according to a Working Families report.

For the third year running the report of the charity’s free legal advice service shows maternity discrimination is a big problem. It is raised in almost 10 per cent of all calls. The report also draws attention to the unpicking of flexible working arrangements by employers with little consideration of the impact on family life. Childcare costs remain a key concern for parents, particularly for families with disabled children, says Working Families.

Working Families Chief Executive Sarah Jackson said: “This is the third year we’ve reported on high levels of maternity discrimination, with signs that employer attitudes are hardening and discrimination becoming more blatant. Eight years ago – before the recession hit – the Equal Opportunities Commission found 30,000 women lost their jobs each year because of pregnancy or maternity. It is time the EHRC revisited the issue, as we believe our helpline reveals only the tip of the iceberg.

We’re also calling on employers to recognise the impact of their imposed changes to contract on families already struggling to balance work and care. Parents can’t suddenly change their hours to work Saturdays or evenings if childcare isn’t in place. We call on the Government to use the forthcoming budget to provide extra help with childcare costs and protect families from further cuts. Our helpline reveals that parents are struggling to make work pay.”

The examples given by Working Families include a woman who worked 24 hours a week over three full days. She was told by her employer that she now has to work Saturdays. She explained that she has to look after her child; her employer said that was not their problem. Another caller made a request to change her working pattern and was offered in return a demotion and told she must accept a pay freeze.

Another caller’s employer was insisting that she worked a late night rota. If she did, she would not pick her child up in time from nursery and it would cost her between £60 and £80 in charges for every late night worked. She said she was already struggling to feed her children and felt “completely and utterly desperate”. Her employer told her it was “her choice to have children”.

Jackson said: “I’m pleased our report shows many examples of how we help callers negotiate a solution and stay in work. But we have far too many callers who, even when advised about their rights, are reluctant to take action for fear of losing their jobs”.

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