Workplace maternity discrimination rife

Unfair treatment towards pregnant women and returning mothers is still common in the workplace, according to exclusive research by HR magazine

Almost half (44%) of respondents to an HR magazine readers survey, in partnership with Pregnant Then Screwed, said they’ve observed pregnant women and returning mothers not being treated well at work.

Out of the 169 HR magazine readers surveyed (consisting of CEOs, directors, HR managers and executives), 44% also admitted that they find flexibility requests challenging and struggle to meet them.

A further 29% said they don’t know the right conversations to have with mothers before and after maternity leave, and 18% said they have seen management in their organisations push mothers out of their jobs.

One in 10 (10%) know at least one returning mother who's signed a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) after receiving a payoff to leave the company.

The findings come as Pregnant Then Screwed launches its new company training arm, Gendering Change, which runs workshops for managers to help them recruit, retain and promote women.

Joeli Brearley, founder of Pregnant Then Screwed, said that employers can do far more to support parents at work. “The results of our survey with HR magazine are shocking and demonstrate the need for more support for mothers and parents in the workplace. Many employers understand that looking after parents makes good business sense but they struggle with implementation and culture change,” she said.

Brearley added that the issue is a major contributor to the gender pay gap. “This year we saw the gender pay gap widen in comparison to last year. And a key cause of the gender pay gap is motherhood. Studies have shown that a third of employers avoid hiring women of childbearing age, or women with young children, and a fifth of employers will not promote women with children,” she said.

“One in nine women are pushed out of their job due to pregnancy or maternity, and 77% of working mums say they have encountered discrimination in the workplace. Implicit bias, ineffective systems and a lack of understanding around the needs of working parents result in an unproductive workforce.”

The charity’s new Gendering Change project aims to help employers provide better support for working mothers, she explained: “Our new training arm will help companies overcome implicit bias, it will help employers implement flexible working and job shares. We will also help companies support parents returning to work after a period of leave, along with supporting organisations to understand their legal obligations towards pregnant women and parents.

"Our workshops are based on the knowledge we have gathered over the past four years from working with pregnant women and new mums and companies across the UK."