Discrimination of Mothers at work: why are they facing more discrimination than they did 10 years ago?

Discrimination of Mothers at work: why are they facing more discrimination than they did 10 years ago?

This is the question raised last week by Management Today  Can shared leave help stop shocking rise in pregnancy discrimination at work?

Research from DBEIS and EHRC found that 11% of mothers they surveyed said ‘they had been dismissed, made compulsorily redundant, or treated so poorly they felt they had to heave their job.’  This isn’t particularly surprising news, but what we want to ask at PfP Coaching in this week’s blog is ‘why is the situation getting worse?’  This 11% is almost double the figure from 2005, despite the Equality Act of 2010 and the fact that gender and equality is way higher up the priority list of many organisations than it was 10 years ago.  So, why the increase?

Why discrimination of mothers at work has increased

Here are the top 5 reasons which has lead us to believe why the discrimination of mothers at work has increased:

  1. More women have returned to work over the last decade

The recession saw an increase in the number of women returning to work, many of them working flexibly and therefore experiencing the family/career juggling act, possibly also after having had an extended break from work.  Policies such as Shared Parental Leave and flexible working being more heavily promoted and easier to apply for will have had an impact in encouraging more new parents back into work.

  1. Managers and organisational cultures aren’t ready to support the above

Training, awareness, support and communication for managers managing new parents in the workplace is still woefully lacking.  Where it does exist in more progressive organisations, it’s usually not mandatory for managers to attend so many don’t have any support around how to navigate potentially very challenging conversations around flexible working, career plans and health and wellbeing.  Miscommunication is nearly always at the root of the problem.

  1. Cost-cutting?

Smaller organisations can struggle financially with multiple staff on maternity leave – some find it’s cheaper and easier to employ their maternity covers for the longer term…. Managers are all too often willing to take the risk of legal action to make someone on leave ‘redundant’.  Out of sight out of mind also comes to question…

  1. Lack of career development support for new mothers

This area has improved hugely in recent years, but is still not invested in adequately.  The impact of leaving the business for up to 12 months is grossly underestimated; whilst more family-friendly policies are helpful, knowing how to navigate and employ them to retain the best possible outcome for careers is something that all new parents should be given support with.  We are the first generation of the working parents truly experiencing the work/family juggling act.

  1. The law

The Women’s Equality Committee feel that the law to protect new mothers in the workplace is inadequate and that we should consider a German-style clause, where it’s impossible to dismiss women who are pregnant through to first 4 months of the baby’s birth.  This wouldn’t, however, prevent the under-the-radar, unreported ‘unfair or poor treatment’ that goes on everywhere, where women often suffer in silence.

Returning finally to the question posed in Management Today as to whether Shared Parental Leave will help slow or reverse this increase in discrimination; if more fathers take longer periods of leave, they too may well face the same levels of discrimination that mothers have been facing at work for years.  The consequences?  We wait with baited breath….

If you want to discuss discrimination of mothers at work or your experience then contact us today

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