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Employment Solicitor calls for employers to give greater support to working women

Culture secretary Maria Miller has this week announced a Government commissioned study to examine discrimination against pregnant women and mothers at work reports Employment Solicitor.......

In these times of austerity and with an economy battered by recession after recession, critics will inevitably say that the Government focus should be on economic recovery and helping businesses to grow and not on employee rights. However, this is not just a women’s issue, this is an issue that affects us all and crucially the economy. Working mothers are a central part to our economic recovery and discrimination against women returning back to work is bad for business and bad for the economy.  

Many women either choose to return to work or, for financial reasons, have to return to work after maternity leave. A recent survey by Slater and Gordon Lawyers of 2,000 women revealed that 51 per cent of women considered that their employers and colleagues attitude towards them changed when they fell pregnant and one in four mums who have returned to work believe that they have been subjected to discrimination either before or after the birth of their child. These statistics not only paint a shameful picture of how employers are failing in their legal obligations, but they also clearly demonstrate the barriers that many women face returning back to work after maternity leave.

By creating these barriers, employers are losing out on the investment that they have made in their employees. Many women will have held their posts for years and will have valuable working knowledge and experience that a new employee would not have. New employees are also expensive business, with recruitment and training costs and the risk that they may not stay. It would make both financial and business sense for employers to encourage and support women in their return back to work after maternity leave and to continue to invest in them.

Problems often arise when women returning back to work seek Flexible Working and this represents one of the most significant barriers to women returning back to work. Flexible working can be viewed as a problem for businesses, a drain on resources and a headache for employers. However, nothing could be further from the reality. Flexible working is a positive way to retain good and experienced employees for the benefit of the business. A job share is a great example where an employer can retain two experienced employees for the price of one. Working from home allows employees to maximise their time at work and reduces overhead costs for employers. For many employers, particularly those employers who have struggled in the economic downturn, flexible working could be an excellent alternative to having to reduce staff numbers whilst retaining the wealth of experience of their employees.  

Businesses who have the greatest prospect of surviving the economic downturn are the businesses who realise the benefit and potential of keeping their experienced staff and who adapt to flexible ways of working. For many businesses this is a break from tradition and a break from the well-trodden path. But those businesses must now move with the times and realise that this really is a time for change.

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