What do women do when faced with maternity and pregnancy discrimination?

Most mums facing pregnancy and maternity discrimination walk away without taking action, according to a new survey.

Maternity leave


The majority of women who faced discrimination as a result of pregnancy and maternity leave left their employer without taking any action, according to a Workingmums.co.uk survey.

The survey found 42% just left their employer. However, 11% left after signing a non-disclosure agreement [NDAs]. Some 4% left and took legal action against their employer. Seven per cent complained by stayed with their employer and 5% did not complain, but remained with their employer despite experiencing discrimination. Thirty one per cent of the sample said they had not faced maternity or pregnancy discrimination.

One woman who signed an NDA and left commented: “I agreed to a pay-off because the stress at work had caused premature birth (at 28 weeks) and I got six months’ salary. ”

The issue of NDAs has been much in the news of late. Just this week The Financial Times’ Michael Skapinker called for mandatory registration of NDAs with a regulator: “Many confidentiality agreements would have been signed for blameless reasons. But regulators should be able to spot patterns,” he wrote.

The Women and Equalities Committee has been hearing evidence on the use of NDAs in discrimination cases this month. Its latest session, on 13th February, focused on:

  • how employers use NDAs, particularly in discrimination cases;
  • guidance, safeguards and oversight to ensure appropriate use of NDAs;
  • whether reducing the use of NDAs affects employers’ ability to settle discrimination cases;
  • whether safeguards and systems could be implemented to prevent misuse.

Maria Miller, chair of the Committee, has been outspoken about the use of NDAs in sexual harassment cases such as that of Top Shop boss Philip Green. She said: “NDAs are protecting the powerful and silencing victims. Employers and lawyers need to hear a strong message from government that this has to change.”

The Equality and Human Rights Commission estimates that as many as 54,000 mothers a year may have left their jobs as a result of pregnancy and maternity discrimination.

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