A survey by the Equality and Human Rights Commission has revealed a high proportion of employers are still labouring under some disturbing illusions when it comes to pregnancy in the workplace.
Of the 1,016 employers surveyed:
- 36% said it was reasonable to ask a female job candidate about her plans to have children.
- 59% believe a female job candidate should have to disclose whether she is pregnant.
- 46% said it was reasonable to ask a female candidate if she had young children.
- 44% believe a woman should work for an employer for at least a year before deciding to have children.
- 44% said that women who fell pregnant more than once while in the same job were a “burden” to the team.
- 40% said that they had seen women “take advantage” of their pregnancy in the workplace.
- Almost 33% believe expectant mothers were “generally less interested in career progression” compared to other employees.
- 41% said that workplace pregnancy placed an “unnecessary cost burden” on the employer.
These figures are disturbing and confirm there is much to do to tackle discrimination in the workplace. Pregnancy and maternity is one of the nine protected characteristics covered by the Equality Act 2010 – sex discrimination is another. It is unlawful for an employer to: (i) discriminate by treating a woman unfavourably during the protected period (from the beginning of pregnancy to the end of maternity leave) because of her pregnancy or because of an illness she has suffered as a result of her pregnancy; or (ii) discriminate by treating a woman unfavourably because she is on compulsory maternity leave or because she is exercising or seeking to exercise, or has exercised or sought to exercise, the right to ordinary or additional maternity leave.