August 09, 2013
Research suggests that as many as one in four UK mothers has suffered workplace discrimination, before or after the birth of their child.
The research, which is based on the views of 2,000 mums, was commissioned by employment law specialists Slater & Gordon. It found that 51% of respondents feel their employer's and colleagues' attitude towards them changed after they became pregnant, while two-thirds said things have been 'difficult' for them since returning from maternity leave. Some 40% didn't believe that they have the support of their bosses.
Being overlooked for promotion and "forced to watch more junior employees progress faster up the career ladder" were common concerns, while many respondents often felt left out and believed their views weren't considered as important as those of staff without children.
Almost half of respondents believed that becoming a parent "halted their career progression", while one third thought it was "impossible for mums to rise up the career ladder".
Kiran Daurka, lawyer at Slater & Gordon, said: "Despite equality legislation, attitudes and working practices continue to block women in achieving their career aspirations. There are still negative perceptions of women with children and this kind of attitude is short-sighted and bad for business.
"Anecdotally, we hear of mothers complaining about being put on a 'mummy track' at work, and our research illustrates that this is the reality for many women. It's dispiriting to hear that more than one fifth of mums feel that they need to prove themselves to their bosses following their return to work after having a baby."
The research also suggests that a quarter of mums feel under pressure to return to work earlier than they wanted to. Feelings of frustration at being left 'out of the loop' were common, while one fifth admitted to feeling less valued having returned to work as a mum. About one third thought their bosses saw their "being a mum" as inconvenient and that it had played a major part in them missing out on a promotion. 43% felt that younger women without children were prioritised over them.
The most common attitudes mums faced were colleagues' frustration at their part-time hours, not being included socially or in business-related matters and a general perception that their role is "just a job now, rather than a career". One in four reported being made to feel surplus to requirements, with roughly the same proportion feeling under pressure to leave or reduce their role after returning to work.
One third said they work harder now than they did before their pregnancy, with just 7% admitting to struggling to perform as well at work.
Daurka added: "Pregnancy and maternity discrimination are not women's issues – these are societal and economic issues. It's in everyone's interest to ensure that working mothers are allowed to work to their full potential."