UK employers reveal discriminatory views towards working mums UK employers reveal discriminatory views towards working mums

UK employers reveal discriminatory views towards working mums
08 Mar 2018

Ignorance of the rights of pregnant women and new mothers is putting UK employers at risk of discrimination claims from both existing and prospective employees, warns a senior lawyer.

New statistics from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) reveal what Danielle Ayres, senior employment solicitor and maternity and pregnancy discrimination specialist at Gorvins Solicitors, described as a “damming attitude towards pregnant women and new mothers, which is hugely disappointing but unsurprising”.

The aim of the survey, which was conducted among more than 1,100 senior decisions-makers by YouGov on behalf of the EHRC, was to understand their attitudes towards pregnancy and maternity discrimination.

More than a third of private sector employers believed it was acceptable to ask women about their family plans, despite the fact that such attitudes are illegal and discriminatory.

One of the most shocking statistics centred around a belief expressed by 59% of employers that women should have to disclose whether they are pregnant during the recruitment process. Almost half (46%) also felt it was reasonable to ask women if they had young children.

This is despite the fact that the Equality Act 2010 makes discrimination on the grounds of certain protected characteristics such as sex, race, age, disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy or religious belief, unlawful. Such rights protect not only existing employees but also potential future ones too.

EHRC chief executive Rebecca Hilsenrath described the situation as“depressing”, adding that, when it comes to the rights of pregnant woman and new mothers in the workplace, “we are still living in the dark ages”.

“We should all know very well that it is against the law not to appoint a woman because she is pregnant or might become pregnant,” she said. “Yet we also know women routinely get asked questions around family planning in interviews.”

Ayres also pointed out that if employers were prepared to provide flexibile working and help mums out with their work/life balance, they were “more likely to be more dedicated and loyal”, or at the very least more motivated.

Some of the many benefits of employing mothers included the experiences they gained while on maternity leave, she said.

“The skills needed to juggle a mini-being as well as dealing with everything else life throws at you means that motherhood does, of course, sharpen existing skills, which make working mums more productive,” Ayres added. “Examples include their ability to prioritise, manage time effectively and plan for every eventuality.”

As a result, employers needed to reassess how they evaluate a new mother’s potential attitude and commitment to work to address the negative bias currently being demonstrated.

 Danielle Ayres

Danielle Ayres is a senior employment solicitor at Gorvins Solicitors, who specialises in pregnancy/maternity and sex discrimination cases. She works closely with a number of specialist partners and organisations, including Pregnant Then Screwed and Working Mums which support working mothers to challenge unfair treatment as a result of their pregnancy and/or maternity leave.

Ignorance of the rights of pregnant women and new mothers is putting UK employers at risk of discrimination claims from both existing and prospective employees, warns a senior lawyer.

New statistics from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) reveal what Danielle Ayres, senior employment solicitor and maternity and pregnancy discrimination specialist at Gorvins Solicitors, described as a “damming attitude towards pregnant women and new mothers, which is hugely disappointing but unsurprising”.

The aim of the survey, which was conducted among more than 1,100 senior decisions-makers by YouGov on behalf of the EHRC, was to understand their attitudes towards pregnancy and maternity discrimination.

More than a third of private sector employers believed it was acceptable to ask women about their family plans, despite the fact that such attitudes are illegal and discriminatory.

One of the most shocking statistics centred around a belief expressed by 59% of employers that women should have to disclose whether they are pregnant during the recruitment process. Almost half (46%) also felt it was reasonable to ask women if they had young children.

This is despite the fact that the Equality Act 2010 makes discrimination on the grounds of certain protected characteristics such as sex, race, age, disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy or religious belief, unlawful. Such rights protect not only existing employees but also potential future ones too.

EHRC chief executive Rebecca Hilsenrath described the situation as“depressing”, adding that, when it comes to the rights of pregnant woman and new mothers in the workplace, “we are still living in the dark ages”.

“We should all know very well that it is against the law not to appoint a woman because she is pregnant or might become pregnant,” she said. “Yet we also know women routinely get asked questions around family planning in interviews.”

Ayres also pointed out that if employers were prepared to provide flexibile working and help mums out with their work/life balance, they were “more likely to be more dedicated and loyal”, or at the very least more motivated.

Some of the many benefits of employing mothers included the experiences they gained while on maternity leave, she said.

“The skills needed to juggle a mini-being as well as dealing with everything else life throws at you means that motherhood does, of course, sharpen existing skills, which make working mums more productive,” Ayres added. “Examples include their ability to prioritise, manage time effectively and plan for every eventuality.”

As a result, employers needed to reassess how they evaluate a new mother’s potential attitude and commitment to work to address the negative bias currently being demonstrated.

 Danielle Ayres

Danielle Ayres is a senior employment solicitor at Gorvins Solicitors, who specialises in pregnancy/maternity and sex discrimination cases. She works closely with a number of specialist partners and organisations, including Pregnant Then Screwed and Working Mums which support working mothers to challenge unfair treatment as a result of their pregnancy and/or maternity leave.

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