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10 March 2013

No Mother’s Day Celebration for Women Returning from Maternity Leave

A survey commissioned by Slater & Gordon finds that more than 1 in 7 women did not have a job to go back to.

Slater & Gordon commissioned a poll ahead of Mother’s Day to survey the experience of new mothers returning to work. The poll found that 14.8% of mothers did not have a job to return to after taking maternity leave, and 11% of women had been replaced by their maternity leave cover.

Slater & Gordon Maternity Discrimination lawyers recognise this as the experience of many of their clients, but were surprised at the scale of the findings in the general public. The survey also found that 45% of women polled felt the job they had returned to was worse in some way to the job they had left, reflecting a common experience of demotion or adverse change on their return. Further, over a quarter of women who sought to make their positions more amenable to new motherhood by requesting flexible working were refused, with almost 2 in 5 refused the right to part time hours.

These statistics show the real cost of discrimination to new mothers, and to the next generation. Close to 20% of women said their finances suffered as a result of taking maternity leave. And, showing the human as well as financial cost, more than 1 in 10 new mothers surveyed said they suffered physical or mental ill-health resulting from employment changes.

Slater & Gordon Employment Lawyer Samantha Mangwana said, "Mother’s Day ought to be a time to celebrate families and the important role women play in raising future generations. Yet, mothers continue to suffer unfairly when returning to work.

"More than half of the women polled suffered in silence because they were either unsure of their rights, they didn’t know where to turn for help or they thought seeking help would damage their future career prospects. New mothers are especially vulnerable since it is often the first time they are wholly responsible for another life.

"The statistics revealed by this survey are sad and shocking. It is against the law to be sacked or treated unfairly because you are pregnant, or taking maternity leave. Be reassured that these legal protections are there – and they are strong. The law is on your side." 

The key findings of the survey included:-

  • Over 1 in 7 maternity returnees did not have a job to go back to (14.8%)

  • More than 1 in 10 were replaced by their maternity cover (11%) or being made redundant (3.75%). The jobs of 2 in every 5 maternity returnees had changed when they went back to work – in almost half of cases (45.53%) for the worse..

  • Of the 40% of women who said they returned to a changed position, almost half (45.53%) felt that the job they returned to was somehow worse than the job they departed from. The most common change was a reduction in hours (44%) whilst more than 1 in 10 experienced increased working hours.

  • Of the 40% who saw changes to their job, more than a quarter had their request for flexible working arrangements refused (26%), whilst almost 2 in 5 of all women polled were refused the right to part time hours (17.5%).

  • More than 1 in 10 new mothers suffered either physical (12%) or mental (11%) ill health as a result of the changes, with almost 1 in 5 (18%) saying their finances suffered as a result. 

  • A small number (4%) saying their relationship with their baby’s father broke down as a result of the changes to their job.

  • 15% said the changes meant they were overlooked for promotional/career progression opportunities.

  • Incredibly, of the 45% of women who saw changes to their position, more than half of these women suffered in silence because they were either unsure of their rights (25.8%), they didn’t know where to turn for help (14.55%), or they thought seeking help would damage their future careers prospects (11.92%). Almost 1 in 5 (18.18%) took no action because they deemed the demands of new motherhood to be a greater priority.

  • Only 1 in 10 (10.71%) of those who saw changes to their position sought advice from their HR department, with a mere (3.64%) seeking legal advice.

  • Upon returning to their jobs, almost a third of new mothers (30.51%) felt like they didn’t fit in at work anymore and 1 in 3 (36.97%) missed their babies terribly. Almost 2 in 5 (17.37%) felt they lacked the support they needed, with 18.18% feeling like no one understood how it is to juggle the demands of new motherhood alongside the demands of working life. Almost a third (29.49%) said they started resenting coming into work and nearly 1 in 10 (9.09%) said the stress of juggling the duties of new motherhood with work, affected their relationship with their partner.

  • More than half (62.83%) said they are glad they returned to work but, of these, 40.81% cited money as the main reason. 1 in 5 (21.62%) wish they could have stayed on maternity leave for longer, with more than 1 in 10 (15.56%) saying they wish they didn’t have to return at all.

Samantha Mangwana is a Senior Employment Solicitor at Slater & Gordon Lawyers in London.

For more information call our Employment Solicitors on freephone 0800 916 9060 or contact us online.

Slater & Gordon Lawyers have over 1,200 staff and offices in London, Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Milton Keynes, Bristol, Merseyside, Halifax, Newcastle, Wakefield, Cambridge and meeting rooms in Bramhall, Cheshire.