Research, published yesterday by HR consultancy Reabur found almost two thirds (64%), of employers do not expect female employees to return to work after their maternity leave; of which 47%, say they believe this because of 'previous experience.'
The study was conducted following the news from Mel Stride, Conservative MP for central Devon, who questioned the rules that allowed staff from companies employing 10 or fewer people to take up to 52 weeks off.
Reabur polled 1,926 employers in a bid to discover their opinions.
The respondents were asked if they had a 'return to work policy' in place for mothers returning from maternity leave, to which two fifths, 41%, said 'yes'. These respondents were then asked if the policy offered the employee part time working hours, to which more than three quarters, 76%, stated that it did.
When asked 'When a member of your staff embark on their maternity leave, do you want them to return to work following their allocated time off?' 16% answered 'no'. These respondents were then asked to explain their decision, to which 38% said it was because they believed that the employee would have a 'reduced level of concentration' once they returned to work.
Almost a quarter (23%) of the respondents who stated that they didn't want the employee to return after maternity leave claimed that it was because they would 'lack enthusiasm,' when compared to a newly hired member of staff.
According to the research, female employers were more expectant of their staff to return to work after maternity leave, composing just 18% of the respondents who stated that they don't expect their employee to return to work after maternity leave.
Kirsty Burgess, co-MD of Reabur, said: "It is interesting to see that even though an employee may say that she wants to return to work after having a baby, employers don't necessarily believe her. Having a child needn't change women's career choices at all, and employers shouldn't necessarily expect a member of staff not to return.
"Although many women do indeed decide to take further time off, this is in no way the norm, especially with the rising cost of childcare it has become more essential for women to return to work. This is a personal decision for an individual to make, and employers need to be really careful about making assumptions- if that message gets back to the employee they could find themselves defending a discrimination claim.
"It was a relief to see that so many employers have a return to work policy in place, as, in many cases, women have been out of the working environment for almost a year. These policies are great as they allow both the employer and employee to be prepared and aware of their rights throughout the maternity leave process. To those respondents who said that they didn't want staff to return from maternity leave, I think this is a very short sighted approach, they should consider the amount of time and cost involved in recruitment, and training new staff not to mention the loss of tacit knowledge."