Does pregnancy screw up your career?


The project, Pregnant Then Screwed, has kicked up a media storm over the last few weeks after it exposed widespread discrimination of pregnant employees and those recently returned to work after maternity leave.

The project is supported by the Equality and Human Rights Commission and intends to publish results of a £1million study that will show a huge increase in the number of women suffering discrimination because they are pregnant or taking maternity leave.

The report suggests discrimination can manifest in a number of ways, such as a colleague getting promoted whilst an employee is on maternity leave or simply an authorised reduction in responsibilities and exposure at work because of pregnancy. For new mothers returning to work, they often feel isolated because of an employer’s treatment, such as not offering development opportunities or lack of flexible working arrangements.

The report has discovered that women are often too scared to speak out after feeling discriminated for fear of being branded a troublemaker and the possibility of losing their job as a consequence – a fear that only intensifies now that the new mother has a child to look after. Add to this fear a feeling of general exhaustion as a result of bringing up a new baby, and the likelihood of a new mother taking on the power of an organisation or tribunal court becomes even slimmer.

Pregnancy and maternity – including a period of time after the employee returns to work following birth – are protected characteristics set out in The Equality Act 2010. Any employer transgressing this protection is likely to face severe penalties. Yet is it enough of a deterrent? Not so, according to the Pregnant Then Screwed report, with the estimate that as many as 60,000 pregnant women are losing their jobs every year.

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