Gender inequality: young mothers paid 15% less than childless colleagues, TUC finds

A fifth of mums under the age of 25 said they were dismissed or were treated so badly that they were forced out of their jobs because of pregnancy or maternity leave

Zlata Rodionova
Tuesday 08 March 2016 14:02
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Younger mothers are paid less because they tend to have significant periods out of work due to maternity leave
Younger mothers are paid less because they tend to have significant periods out of work due to maternity leave

Younger mothers systematically get paid less than those who have not yet had children, a study has found.

Women who have children before the age of 33 are paid 15 per cent less than their childless peers, according to an analysis carried out for the Trades Union Congress (TUC) by the Institute for Public Policy Research.

Younger mothers are paid less because they tend to have significant periods out of work due to maternity leave, or because they work part-time when their children are older, according to the research published on International Women’s Day.

Younger mothers are also more likely to suffer from bad treatment at the workplace.

A fifth of mums under the age of 25 said they were dismissed or were treated so badly that they were forced out of their jobs because of pregnancy or maternity leave, compared to 1 in 10 mothers overall.

The pay penalty does not apply to older employees with children, according to the research.

Older mothers working full-time get a wage bonus of 12 per cent compared to full-time women without children. This is because they are mostly senior employees and higher earners in their companies. They both benefit from better entitlements and are more able to afford full-time childcare.

Joeli Brearley, founder of the online project “Pregnant Then Screwed”, which aims to raise awareness of pregnancy discrimination in the UK, has heard many stories form youngers mothers who have endured discrimination after falling pregnant.

The high cost of childcare is preventing many of them to go back to work, she said.

“Access to free or subsidised childcare would mean more women are able to return to work as the cost is prohibitive for many and younger mothers are likely to earn less than their older counterparts,” Brearley told the Independent.

Frances O’Gready, TUC general secretary, agrees.

“We need to do far more to support all working mums, starting by increasing the number of quality part-time jobs and making childcare much more affordable,” she said.

The cost of childcare in the UK is one of the highest in Western nations. Only Ireland charges comparable rates for two- and three-year-olds in full-time day care.

Just 45 per cent of councils report sufficient childcare available for parents who work full time, despite their obligations to make sure there are enough places under the Childcare Act 2006.

Support for more for more equal parenting roles to stop women being held back at work would be another step in the right direction.

“Shared parental leave is a start but take up is likely to be low and better paid, fathers-only (rather than shared) leave is needed,” the TUC said.

“To close the gap we need equal homes and equal work places which is why we are campaigning to extend paternity leave to 6 weeks on 90 per cent pay. We would also like to see all jobs advertised with flexible working options,” Brearley said.

An estimated 54,000 women are forced out of their jobs due to pregnancy every year, according to a research by The Equality and Human Rights Commission.

All mothers should be supported and treated fairly in the workplace, regardless of the age at which they have their children, their seniority in the workplace or whether they work full or part-time, according to TUC.

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