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Businesses rejecting ‘maternity-age’ candidates

As the government pledges to increase rights for pregnant women at work, new research reveals discrimination against ‘maternity-age’ women

Almost the same number of female as male business leaders admit to rejecting female candidates who 'appear to be of maternity age', according to Worksome research.

Its survey found that 25% of male business leaders and 21% of female leaders have turned down candidates of this demographic even though they were the right person for the job.

Almost half (44%) of business leaders said they had turned down female candidates who were not pregnant but that they were concerned were likely to get pregnant in the future.

A further 23% said they had rejected women even though they were the right candidate for the job, while 21% said they had rejected female candidates because their business couldn’t handle the prospect of women coming in and out of maternity leave.

Almost one in 10 (8%) admitted to openly asking female candidates if they planned to have any children in the future, even though it is illegal to do so under current employment law.

Mathias Linnemann, CCO and co-founder of Worksome, said that the research shines a worrying spotlight on employer perspectives. “We are disheartened to see that such outdated and inaccurate opinions are still held by business leaders in the UK. This behaviour is harmful to all women in the workforce – even those who may have no interest in ever having children are facing prejudice and discrimination because of their gender,” he said.

Aside from the legal implications, Linnemann added that such discrimination puts businesses at a competitive disadvantage: “Not only are businesses breaking the law but they are putting themselves at a disadvantage. With the proper support, negotiating maternity leave needn’t be a challenge. Businesses should feel able to hire the best candidate, regardless of who they are, and not worry that they are going to be ‘caught out’ by maternity leave at a later date.”

This research comes as the government has pledged to increase rights for pregnant women and new parents at work.

Worksome surveyed 502 business leaders from across the UK on topics such as maternity leave, flexible working and attitudes towards freelancers.