A report commissioned by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Equality and Human Rights Commission has found that the majority of mothers surveyed believed that they had been subjected to negative or discriminatory treatment by their employers either during their pregnancy, whilst on maternity leave or on their return to the workplace.
If the sample of 3,254 mothers is reflective of the wider population, the figures could reflect up to 390,000 mothers being subjected to discriminatory treatment in their workplace each year.
The Pregnancy and Maternity-Related Discrimination and Disadvantage: Experience of Mothers Report, also found that one in five mothers had experienced harassment or negative comments from their employers or colleagues in relation to their pregnancy or requests for flexible working following their pregnancy.
Whilst the report points out that it’s findings are based upon mothers’ perceptions of their experiences, which do not necessarily meet the legal definition of discrimination, the figures clearly show that the majority of mothers feel that they have been subjected to negative or discriminatory treatment. This is a worrying statistic when there is legislation in place to protect mothers’ from the very treatment which they feel they have been subjected to.
The Equality Act 2010 prohibits employers and work colleagues from discriminating against an employee on the grounds of their pregnancy or maternity. The Act protects these employees from being dismissed and from being subjected to any negative treatment because of their pregnancy and/or maternity, or because of something relating to it. The Act also protects these employees from harassment, defined as ‘unwanted conduct’ related to their pregnancy and/or maternity which has the purpose or effect of violating their dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.
If an employee believes that their employer has breached the provisions of the Equality Act 2010 in relation to their pregnancy or maternity, they can bring a claim of discrimination in the employment tribunal. However only 1% of the mothers surveyed for the report disclosed that they had lodged a complaint with the employment tribunal.
If you believe that you have been subjected to negative or discriminatory treatment at work because of your pregnancy or maternity, please contact our specialist discrimination team for advice on 0175 321 6399.
By Michelle Tilley, employment and discrimination team