More than 1,000 women a year take legal action claiming they have been dismissed for being pregnant, while others face pay cuts, demotion and outright hostility, the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) says in a report published today.
Some are forced to work in unsafe conditions which can have a "disastrous" impact on their lives and the health of their babies.
A study by the shopworkers' union, Usdaw, found that two out of three expectant mothers were faced with a "negative" attitude by employers. One in four said they were ignored and marginalised and a similar number revealed they were not given a suitable uniform to wear.
One woman told the commission that her manager said to her after she announced her pregnancy: "You silly girl. Have you considered an abortion?" Another said she went from being a top salesperson to a liability. Julie Mellor, who chairs the EOC, warned that pregnant women would continue to face the sack unless firms were made aware of the law. The EOC said its report, published to mark National Pregnancy Week, showed "huge holes" in many people's understanding of the law.Reuse content