1 in 7 women made redundant after maternity leave

According to a recent article in the Guardian newspaper, female employees are experiencing increasing levels of pregnancy-related discrimination in the workplace.

Research commissioned by the law firm Slater & Gordon found that one in seven women surveyed had lost their job whilst on maternity leave, with 40% saying that their jobs had changed by the time they returned, perhaps with a demotion or reduction in working hours.

Out of 1,000 women polled by research company OnePoll, 30% of new mothers said they felt they didn’t “fit in” anymore after returning to work. Over 10% said they had effectively been replaced by the person covering their responsibilities whilst they were on maternity leave. However, shockingly and despite these issues, only 3% had sought legal advice over maternity or pregnancy discrimination.

To be clear on this issue, it is unlawful to dismiss (or otherwise disadvantage, i.e. demotion, cut in hours, less responsibility) an employee for a reason relating to her pregnancy or maternity leave.

Even before the recession hit, the Equal Opportunities Commission estimated that some 30,000 women had lost their jobs as a result of being pregnant. Campaigners like Maternity Action believe that in these austere times, with employers cutting their cloth wherever possible, these numbers have risen dramatically.

Tom Street of Do I Have A Case comments: “This research is pretty saddening and is probably only the tip of the iceberg in terms of numbers. Many women are shocked to find that their reasonable and accommodating employer becomes a lot less understanding a year later when they want to return to work and pick up where they left off; this is particularly the case with small businesses during a recession.

“We regularly receive enquiries from women who feel they have been dismissed or discriminated against as a direct result of their pregnancy or maternity leave, but it is clear from our subsequent discussions with these women that many do not appreciate how strong their rights actually are.”