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Bosses admit having a baby holds women back: what are your rights?

Joanna Faith
Written By:
Joanna Faith

Getting pregnant is holding women back in a fifth of workplaces, research shows.

In a poll carried out by charity Young Women’s Trust, one in five employers admitted that if a woman is pregnant or has children it impacts on decisions about whether to promote them.

The same number say that pregnancy is frowned upon in their organisation within the first year of employment.

Some employers were even willing to admit that women were taken less seriously in their workplace when they returned from maternity leave.

This comes as a second major survey by the charity shows that 43% of young women with children reported facing maternity discrimination at work.

Young Women’s Trust chief executive Dr Carole Easton said: “The level of discrimination that Young Women’s Trust has uncovered against young mothers who are in work or looking for jobs is shocking.

“It is in everyone’s interest to help young mothers who want to work. They have a huge amount to contribute to their workplaces and many want to be financially independent and support their families. Tackling discrimination would benefit young mums, businesses and the economy as a whole.

“Employers should value young mums’ contributions to their workplaces and do more to accommodate them, including by offering more flexible and part-time working opportunities.”

What are your rights?

The law says it is pregnancy discrimination to treat a woman unfavourably on the grounds of her pregnancy or because she wants to take or has taken maternity leave (Equality Act 2010 s.18).

According to the charity Maternity Action, examples of “unfavorable treatment” include:

  • selection for redundancy on the grounds of pregnancy,
  • dismissal because of pregnancy,
  • refusal of training or promotion opportunities,
  • reduction of pay or hours

All employees, casual workers, agency workers, freelancers and contractors are protected by pregnancy and maternity discrimination law from day one of their employment.

What can you do?

Maternity Action says the first course of action should be talking to your employer, HR department or senior manager informally to try and resolve any issues If you are in a union, you should speak to your local representative.

You can then use your employer’s grievance procedure if you want to complain about the way you’ve been treated.

If you are thinking of making a claim in an employment tribunal you should contact ACAS first for Early Conciliation. You must start a claim within three months from the act you are complaining about.