Working Forward: employers sign up to tackle discrimination against pregnant women and new mums

MAJOR employers, politicians and business bodies are supporting a new campaign to make workplaces the best they can be for pregnant women and new mothers.

Working Forward has been launched by the Equality and Human Rights Commission following recent research which found three in four mothers (77%) had a negative or possibly discriminatory experience during pregnancy; maternity leave; and on their return from maternity leave.

The aim is to tackle discrimination against women in the workplace by working with businesses to raise standards of good practice. Companies which sign up are asked to nominate a gender equality champion at board level to train and support line managers and promote family-friendly policies.

“Companies that show a real commitment to this are not only doing the right thing, but can also gain a competitive edge,” said David Isaac, Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission. “Together, we want to raise the bar across the business community and ultimately improve the experiences of employers and employees.”

Founding members of Working Forward – which include Barclays, Royal Mail, John Lewis, the Nationwide Building Society, Ford and the BT Group – 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.

The campaign also has the backing of business bodies such as the CBI, Institute of Directors (IOD), the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), and the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).

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 new campaign follows recent research by the EHRC and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) to investigate the scale of pregnancy and maternity discrimination.

The study found that around one in nine mothers (11%) reported that they were either dismissed; made compulsorily redundant, where others in their workplace were not; or treated so poorly they felt they had to leave their job. If scaled up to the general population this could mean as many as 54,000 mothers a year. One in five mothers had experienced harassment or negative comments related to pregnancy or flexible working from their employer and /or colleagues; if scaled up to the general population this could mean as many as 100,000 mothers a year. The report also revealed that one in ten mothers said their employer discouraged them from attending antenatal appointments; if scaled up to the general population this could mean up to 53,000 mothers a year.

Launched today at a Houses of Parliament event, with speeches from: Caroline Dinenage, Minister for Women, Equalities and Early Years and Maria Miller, Chair of the Women and Equalities Select Committee, Working Forward asks companies to sign up to the following:

“I pledge to make my workplace the best it can be for pregnant women and new mothers.”

  1. Demonstrating leadership from the top down
    2. Ensuring confident employees
    3. Training and supporting line managers
    4. Offering flexible working practices.



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