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08 August 2013

Mums Facing Discrimination at Work

Mums Facing Discrimination at Work

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, it emerged yesterday.

Researchers found 51% consider that their employers’ and colleagues’ attitude towards them changed when they became 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. While 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’.

The research of 2,000 mums, commissioned by Employment Lawyers at Slater & Gordon UK, found four in ten mums don’t feel they have the support of their bosses. 

Slater & Gordon Employment Lawyer Kiran Daurka 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 a 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 as 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. 42% 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 determined third of mums feel they actually work harder now than they did before their pregnancy. Just 7% admitted they struggled to perform as well at work as a consequence of becoming a mum.

Kiran Daurka added, “Maternity discrimination is not a women’s issue – it is a societal and economic issue.  “It's 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.”

Kiran Daurka is a Senior Employment Lawyer at Slater & Gordon in London.

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