According to new research by law firm Slater & Gordon, more than one in four mothers feel they have been discriminated against at work while pregnant or after returning to their job from maternity leave.
The survey of almost 2,000 UK working mothers also found that 51% feel their employer’s and colleagues’ attitude towards them changed when they became pregnant, while two-thirds said things had been “difficult” for them since they returned from maternity leave.
However, it also revealed that 70% have not bothered to make a formal complaint about unfair treatment, and of those, 26% said they did not want to “rock the boat”.
Other findings from the survey include two out of five respondents stating that younger colleagues with no children were given more support and encouragement, while three out of five said they believed pregnancy was a problem for their workplace and a third found it “impossible” to climb the career ladder after giving birth.
Commenting on the results, Kiran Daurka, a Lawyer at Slater & Gordon, said:
“Despite the equality legislation in place, attitudes and working practices continue to block women in achieving their career aspirations in the UK.
“This report shows that there are still negative perceptions of women with children and this kind of attitude is short-sighted and bad for business.”
“Anecdotally, we hear of mothers complaining about being put on a ‘mummy track’ when back at work, and this research illustrates that this is a real experience for many women.
“I find it quite dispiriting to hear that more than a fifth of mothers feel that they need to prove themselves to their bosses following their return from having a baby.”
Also commenting, Alastair Pringle, Scotland Director for the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said:
“It’s certainly worrying that such a high number of women still feel that motherhood is holding them back in the workplace and that they believe they are being treated unfairly.
“Legal protections or not, employers need to realise that they are wasting valuable experience and talent when they sideline any section of the population.”
Mr Pringle added:
“There are legal protections in place. This means that an employee – whether they are pregnant or returning to work as a mother – should not be treated unfavourably.”
Highlighting the Government’s current position, Employment Minister, Jo Swinson, said:
“It is illegal to sack a woman because she is pregnant or on maternity leave. Such action constitutes pregnancy discrimination and could result in an employer in front of an Employment Tribunal.
“The Government is committed to making sure that more businesses make the best use of women’s talents throughout the organisation, from boardroom to the shop floor.
“This is why from April 2015 we’re introducing shared parental leave and pay which will allow couples to choose how they share care for their child in the first year after birth.”