The country’s biggest businesses are leading the fight against pregnancy and maternity discrimination that affects around 390,000 pregnant women and new mothers each year, by forming a new alliance to show employers how to attract, develop and retain women at work.
Major household names including Barclays, Royal Mail and BT Group are leading a coalition of businesses in the initiative ‘Working Forward – supporting pregnancy and maternity rights’, aiming to inspire other organisations to follow their example by working to eradicate discrimination from their businesses and make the best use of their female workforce.
The high-profile founding members will encourage businesses in their supply chains to sign up to the coalition and pledge to make their workplaces the best they can be for pregnant women and new mothers. The founders will share their knowledge, experience and good practice with businesses who sign up, as well as highlighting the economic benefits they get from retaining the talent and experience of their female employees.
With over 15 million women active in the UK labour market at any time, women make up half of the UK workforce. However, research shows more than two million women who are not working want to work and over one and half million women in work would like to do more hours. It’s claimed if women's participation in the labour market increased to roughly the same as men’s, it would add 10% to the size of the economy by 2030.
The business benefit is also clear with evidence showing top performing companies for gender diversity are 15% more likely to perform better financially than the average.
The members will help drive long-term positive change through actions such as nominating a gender equality champion at board level, training and supporting line managers, and promoting family friendly policies including advertising all jobs as open to flexible working where appropriate. These actions will help businesses begin to tackle the pressing challenges they face to reduce their pay gaps, and enable women to develop their careers within companies.
Working Forward, set up by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, follows its recent landmark research, carried out in conjunction with the former Department from Business, Innovation and Skills which highlighted that while the majority of employers say they are firm supporters of female staff during and after pregnancy and find it easy to comply with the law, three in four (77%) mothers say they have had a negative or possibly discriminatory experience at work.
David Isaac, Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said: