Pregnant Women Are Being Penalised at Work?

The world needs women to have babies, yet we still haven't organised ourselves well enough to stop disdvantaging mothers.

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One in four mums who have returned to work believe they have been subjected to discrimination, either before or after the birth of their child. This is the startling conclusion of a survey undertaken by law firm Slater & Gordon. Below is a summary of their findings.

Researchers found 51 per cent consider that their employers’ and colleagues’ attitude towards them changed when they fell pregnant, while two thirds said things have been ‘difficult’ for them since they returned from maternity leave. Being overlooked for promotion and being forced to watch more junior employees progress faster up the career ladder were common complaints.

Many women said they felt that their views weren’t considered as important as those of staff without children and that they often felt ‘left out’. Worryingly, nearly half of working mums felt having children halted their career progression, while a third described rising up the career ladder as a mum ‘impossible’. (My italics) The research questioned 2,000 women, and was commissioned by employment law specialists Slater & Gordon they found that four in ten mums don’t feel they have the support of their bosses. Which does suggest that a lucky 6 out of 10 do feel supported.

Kiran Daurka, a lawyer at Slater & Gordon said:

“Despite the equality legislation in place, attitudes and working practices continue to block women in achieving their career aspirations in the UK. This report shows that 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” when back at work, and this research illustrates that this is a real experience for many women. I find it quite dispiriting to hear that more than a fifth of mums feel that they need to prove themselves to their bosses following their return from having baby.”

One quarter of mums felt under pressure to return to work earlier than they wanted to. Feelings of frustration or being left ‘out of the loop’ were common, while a fifth said they definitely felt less valued having returned to work a mum. Three in ten felt their bosses saw being a mum as inconvenient, and the same number thought it had played a major part in them missing out on a promotion. Forty two per cent felt those younger and without children were prioritised in the workplace over themselves.

The most common attitudes mums faced were other worker’s 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.

In fact, one in four has been made to feel they’re no longer required in their current workplace and the same number has even had pressure on them to leave their position or reduce their role. A third of mums feel they actually work harder now than they did before their pregnancy. Just 7 per cent admitted they struggled to perform as well at work as a consequence of becoming a mum.

Kiran Daurka added:

“Pregnancy and maternity discrimination are not women’s issues – these are societal and economic issues. “It is in everyone’s interest to ensure that working mothers are allowed to work to their full potential. The workplace is changing and it is more important than ever that we take advantage of a work force that are often happy to do early starts and late finishes and even weekends if it means it works around them having children. Flexibility really can be win-win for everyone.”

I’d be really interested to hear about your experiences in this area. Does your experience mirror that illustrated above? If you haven’t yet taken maternity leave do you feel concerned? What have you observed amongst colleagues on maternity leave?

You may also like to read Should Women Be Penalised for Wanting to be Mothers?

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Jane C Woods

Women's Personal Development Specialist - Changing People, -

Hi, I’m Jane C Woods and I have an absolute passion for helping women achieve success in their lives. Be it the glass ceiling, the crystal maze, or very personal issues, I’m all about helping women achieve to their full potential and live the way they want to without being carbon copies of men. But I’m not about putting men down in order for women to get ahead, there’s plenty of room; I just want the guys to shifty up a bit… If my face looks familiar it's because I love Psychologies magazine (I've been buying it since the very first issue, such a good resource) and it's the only place I choose to advertise my courses. I write on women’s issues on my blog,, and am regularly featured in magazines, and on radio, but I’m probably best known for RenewYou. RenewYou is my one day personal development course for women. We have an international network of experienced, specialist women licensed to deliver it and empower women across the globe. Our goal is to reach one million women. It’s a big goal but… In 2013 we started with a single RenewYou specialist, me. Now you can find a RenewYou Courses across the UK, in the USA, Canada, Greece, Bangkok, Pakistan, South Africa, Belgium, with new countries being added all the time. My dream was to create a thriving and caring business on ethical, and dare I say, feminine terms, with a real community spirit of help and encouragement. And it’s actually happening with the support, expertise, and enthusiasm of my wonderful trainers. I think, (apart from my two lovely kids, a daughter and a son) that it’s probably my proudest achievement to date. Wonderful Changing People Women: One of the joys and privileges of my work is that I’ve connected with some really inspirational and wonderful women – from politics to entertainment to academia. They include: TV presenter, house fixer and matchmaker Sarah Beeny Amazing entrepreneur Sam Roddick of Coco de Mer Outspoken and entertaining academic Mary Beard Politicians like Siobhan Benita and Natalie Bennett Ex BBC broadcaster Miriam O’Reilly who bravely took on the might of the BBC- and triumphed A very rare interview with Sarah Montague, of the influential BBC Radio 4 Today programme I hope you like the posts and I hope they are helpful. Live life to the max and never hide your light under any bushels!


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over 1 year ago

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