Only 23% of mothers have said they’ve not experienced maternity discrimination

Maternity discrimination is pushing women out of work.

A recent Equality and Human Rights Commission investigation into maternity discrimination shows 77% of women reported pregnancy or maternity-related discrimination at work.

Statistics show that the prevalence and nature of pregnancy discrimination and disadvantage in the workplace is still growing. More than 390,000 mothers are more likely to be forced out of work after having a child.

As many as 54,000 women are thought to be losing their jobs annually, according to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, in conjunction with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skill. This undermines statutory injunctions and the employers who had agreed to support pregnant women and those on maternity leave. Many employers have agreed to prioritise the interests of pregnant women and those on maternity leave through having flexible working options within their departments, which includes part-time, job sharing, compressed hours, school term-time working. On many occasions, each case is considered independently to find the best outcome for both the individual and the business area. Often hours can be negotiated with the line managers around the business need.

Falling for three years

Since 2012, the number of mothers taking maternity leave has considerably dropped nationally. Although the decline slowed down during 2013 and 2014, the decline has been consistent. It can be inferred that maternity discrimination and disadvantage is indeed a prevalent issue still growing in nature today. Since there has only been an overall 17% drop between 2012 and 2014 in the number of women going on maternity leave, perhaps it would be beneficial to also look at the average days’ woman take when going on their maternity leave from work.

Would there be a factual difference or a simultaneous decline here too? According to the Equal Opportunities Commission, under the Equality Act 2010, women cannot be denied their entitlement to 52 weeks of pregnancy leave. Looking at both findings, it can be seen that there is a huge correlation between the number of mothers taking maternity leave and the number of days taken off. As the average day’s decrease, so do the number of women taking maternity leave. This points to the increase in maternity discrimination over time. If 52 weeks equals 364 days, why are many mothers on average only taking 19–14 weeks’ maternity leave after just having a child?

Extent of maternity discrimination and disadvantages

Over three in four mothers (77%) reported at least one work-related negative or possibly discriminatory experience. The number of experiences is not an indicator of increasing severity for an individual, as each negative experience may have different degrees of severity. Therefore, the 60% of women who received other negative treatments should not be seen as more fortunate than the other women who did have named negative experiences.

Although this conceals on average the numerous experiences many women experience across the country, it is important to understand why these experiences constitute to unfavourable treatment in the workplace. Research shows that 20% of mothers experienced a financial loss as a result of being discriminated against as a pregnant mother. Could this be the reason why 7% of mothers refused to make any requests for flexible working hours, which they would have benefited from? The financial loss was most often reported due to mothers failing to gain a promotion they were qualified for. Consequently, this has left a negative impact on their opportunities, status or job security.

Are young mothers more likely to experience pregnancy and maternity discrimination?

Young mothers are more likely than average to hand in their notice when they become pregnant. Six times as many mothers than average have also been dismissed (6% vs 1%). Usually, these mothers are under 25, and at the peak or at the beginning of their career.

As the number of maternities decrease so does the age of mothers having children. Has the increase in maternity discrimination changed the average age women decide to have children at?

While many employers value, and want to retain the talent, skills and drive many women contribute to their businesses, research suggests that this does not always translate into positive experiences at work for pregnant women and new mothers. Is this why the role of the traditional women will always matter?