Majority of working mothers discriminated against for being pregnant or having children, research finds

The £1,200 cost of taking a case to tribunal has been blamed for lack of women challenging discrimination

The majority of working mothers in the UK have lost out on opportunities for promotion, training or even been threatened with dismissal as part of pregnancy and maternity discrimination experienced in the workplace, new research has found.

Research conducted by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) found that in a survey of 3,000 mothers, three quarters had experienced discrimination for having children, but only one in four raised it with their employer.

Ten per cent of women said they had trouble getting time off work to attend antenatal appointments, while around four per cent said they left a job over health and safety issues.

The research also questioned around 3,000 employers, just over half of whom did not provide any support or training for managers dealing with pregnancy or maternity issues.

A quarter of employers believed it was reasonable to ask women in a job interview about their plans to have children.

Of the women affected by discrimination, just one per cent took their case to a tribunal.

It costs £1,200 to take a case to tribunal since the fees were introduced in 2013, in which time the number of sex discrimination cases have dropped by 76 per cent and the number of pregnancy related cases by 50 per cent.

Caroline Waters, deputy chairwoman of the EHRC said the commission is calling on “employers, regulatory bodies and the voluntary sector to make vital changes needed to improve the lived experiences of British workplaces” and for the Government to look at the “barriers working pregnant women and mothers face in accessing justice”.

MP Maria Miller, who chairs the Women and Equalities Committee said: "This report provides hard evidence that there is widespread and worrying discrimination against women during pregnancy and when they return to work from maternity leave.

"This is despite the legal protections that have been in place for the past 30 years. My committee is very concerned by these findings and is launching an inquiry to follow up on the report and recommendations."

A BIS spokesperson said: “Today’s findings should be a wake-up call to employers: discrimination is unlawful and completely unacceptable. Attracting and retaining female talent is crucial to economic growth and, as well as being against the law, it does not make business sense for employers to alienate and discriminate against women in their workforce.

“We are determined to stand up for all workers and are taking action to tackle pregnant women and parents being discriminated against at work.”

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