Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)
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Forcing working mothers from jobs costs business £280 million each year

British businesses are losing nearly £280 million each year as a result of women being forced out of their jobs by pregnancy and maternity discrimination, according to new research published yesterday by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

The losses to business were largely due to recruitment and training costs, and lost productivity. These could be even higher when reputational risks, loss of valuable staff, employment tribunals and longer-term productivity impacts are also included.

The new research also showed the cost to British women could be as much as £113 million a year when they’re forced to leave their job. This includes those who felt so poorly treated they had to leave and those who were dismissed or (alone among their colleagues) made compulsorily redundant. It found that women were most likely to be financially affected when they felt forced to leave their job at an early stage of their pregnancy, due to loss of earnings.

The research finds that women who keep their jobs still report a financial loss due to pregnancy discrimination of up to £34 million in total over the following year. This includes failing to gain a promotion, having their salary reduced, being demoted and receiving a lower pay rise/bonus than they would otherwise have secured.

Yesterday’s findings follow recent research published by the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the government that showed over three quarters of pregnant women and new mothers (77%) – the equivalent of 390,000 women - experience negative and potentially discriminatory treatment at work each year. A total of 11% - the equivalent of around 54,000 - are forced out of their jobs. In contrast, less than 1% of women reported lodging a complaint at an employment tribunal.

David Isaac, Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission said:

“Those who discriminate by forcing working mothers out are shooting themselves in the foot and incurring substantial costs. Today's research underlines that equality of opportunity for working mothers makes good business sense.

“The best businesses know already that ending discrimination and unlocking the talent of women in the workplace makes them stronger and more successful. We encourage all businesses to follow their lead by supporting working mothers and showing zero tolerance of discrimination.”

To promote good practice, the Commission is working with leading British businesses who are spearheading a new coalition called Working Forward. The coalition aims to inspire and support other organisations by sharing their knowledge, experience and good practice, as well as highlighting the economic benefits they get from retaining the talent and experience of their female employees.

The Commission is supporting Working Forward following its report, published in July, emphasising the need for employers to improve their practice in order to reduce the extent of negative experiences faced by pregnant women and new mothers in the workplace.

The Commission’s recommendations include a review of access to justice for women who have experienced pregnancy or maternity discrimination. The government is called upon to extend the time limit for making an employment tribunal claim to 6 months for cases relating to pregnancy and maternity and that ensure that fees are not a barrier to women taking cases. 

Business Minister Margot James said:

“Not only is discrimination in the workplace illegal - it makes absolutely no business sense, with a significant cost to employers and a devastating impact on the careers of new mothers and pregnant women.

“I’d like to thank the Equality and Human Rights Commission for helping to shine a light on this issue which is a key priority of mine. Together we will raise awareness to prove all discrimination is both unacceptable and costly to employers.”

Notes to editors

The research was carried out for the Commission by a team at the National Institute of Economic and Social Research.

Find out more about the Working Forward initiative, including more information about all of the founding members and how to sign up.

Read the full pregnancy and maternity discrimination research findings

For more press information and interviews contact the Commission’s media office on 0161 829 8102, out of office hours 07767 272 818.

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