By Esmée Hardwick-Slack
The Department for Business has said its research shows that one in nine women has been made redundant when they returned to work after having a child, or were treated so badly that they felt forced out of their role. One in five mothers have also reported other financial losses, such as failing to gain a promotion, salary reduction, a lower pay rise or bonus and demotions.
The Prime Minister has stated that she wants to see current rules that safeguard women’s jobs during their baby’s first year extended for six months after they return to work. She said: “It’s unacceptable that too many parents still encounter difficulties when returning to work.” This change is designed to end the perceived default situation that when a business has to make staff cutbacks, the new mother is usually the first to be offered redundancy.
Josh Hardie, deputy director general of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), said: “Pregnancy and maternity discrimination is totally unacceptable. Providing the right environment for parents to return to work with confidence and develop their careers should be high on the list of employers’ priorities.”
Currently, employers who want to make a new mother redundant have to prove the reason is unconnected to her pregnancy or maternity leave. The new proposal would give women priority in retaining their jobs over other employees who are also at risk of redundancy. A 10-week consultation has also been launched by the government to seek views on giving the same protection to parents returning from adoption leave or shared parental leave.
Founder of the social media network Mumsnet, Justine Roberts has welcomed the proposal, saying: “Mumsnet users talk a lot about pregnancy and maternity discrimination, and last year, 96% of women surveyed said having a child affected mothers’ careers for the worse. It’s a multifaceted problem requiring a change in the attitude and culture as well as legislation, but stronger legal protection is a very welcome first step.”
However, not everyone is convinced by the proposed extensions. Campaigner Joeli Brearley, founder of Pregnant Then Screwed has said: “More mothers are made redundant when the enhanced protections exist than when they don’t, proving that the enhanced protections which are already in place are not working, so what is the point of extending them? The problem isn’t the law – the law is very clear, it is illegal to make someone redundant due to pregnancy.”
Brearley also said “prohibitively expensive childcare” plus a lack of flexibility “makes it almost impossible for parents to manage their responsibilities”.
She went on to say: “Until we solve these issues, and create a society where women can be both bread winner and care giver, we will never reduce discrimination in the workplace.”
What are your thoughts on the new proposals? Will it help reduce discrimination of new mothers in the workplace or does more need to be done? Let us know in the comments or join the discussion on our Twitter and Facebook page.