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Women discriminated against at work for starting families

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Employers are discriminating against women who may go onto have children, according to new research by women’s charity Young Women’s Trust.

The research found one in ten (10%) HR managers said they would be reluctant to hire a woman they thought may go on to start a family.

A further 17% agreed pregnancy within the first year of employment is frowned upon within their organisation.

Though illegal to ask women whether they have children or plan to start a family during recruitment, 19% of HR managers asked said being pregnant or having young children negatively affects a woman’s chances of progression or promotion. 

Laura Davies, who speaks in a case study in the report and now works as a photographer, told HR magazine that when working in a male-dominated sales job, she became pregnant and her employer was unsupportive.   

She said: “I went from being a valued member of the team to the butt of all the jokes, I received a lot of, ‘you’re throwing your life away’ style abuse.

“When I came back from maternity leave, I was told I didn’t have a job in that store and that I should stay at home on benefits.”

Davies said she feels let down by the company's HR team.

"I wish that management were fully trained in what is right and wrong to say to mothers, especially young mothers. I was young, didn’t fully know my rights and upon reflection now know I was being clearly discriminated against," she added.

Joe Levenson, director of communications and campaigns at Young Women’s Trust, said it is worrying that women continue to be penalised because they have children or may go on to have them.

He told HR magazine: “This attitude towards women risks pushing them out of work earlier in their careers or trapping them in lower-paid jobs.

“If this is unchallenged it also risks widening the gender pay gap and inequality throughout organisations, which is why it's so important employers take a zero-tolerance approach to discrimination in the workplace.”

The poll was conducted by YouGov on behalf of Young Women’s Trust between 11 and 17 February 2021.


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