“It would be better for your career if you just brought a coat hanger” one mother was told by her employer
- A new study from Pregnant Then Screwed reveals the state of discrimination in the workplace today.
- Over half of all mothers – 52% – have faced some form of discrimination when pregnant, on maternity leave or when they returned.
- 1 in 5 mothers have left their job following a negative or discriminatory experience.
- 64% of pregnant women say their boss or colleagues made hurtful comments about the way they look.
DATE: 19th July 2023: New research from Pregnant Then Screwed has unlocked the discrimination that is alive and kicking in workplaces today, with a shocking revelation that 1 in every 61 pregnant women say their boss suggested they terminate their pregnancy.
This new report which surveyed over 24,000 parents has been compiled with Women In Data® to uncover the discrimination that women face in the workplace when they become mothers. This isn’t an issue that affects a marginal number of parents; rather, the data has shown that over half of all mothers (52%) have faced some form of *discrimination when pregnant, on maternity leave or when they returned.
When Connie told her boss about her pregnancy at 8 weeks she said “it would be easier for your future career if you just brought a coat hanger”. Three colleagues went on to tell Connie that she had ruined her career and should have had an abortion.
For some women, the consequences of having children can have life-changing consequences on their career, with one in five mothers (19%) making the decision to leave their employer due to a negative experience. Additionally, 1 in 10 women (10%) revealed they were bullied or harassed when pregnant or returning to work, and 7% of women lost their job – through redundancy, sacking, or feeling forced to leave due to a flexible working request being declined or due to health and safety issues. If scaled up, this could mean as many as 41,752* pregnant women or mothers are sacked or made redundant every year*
Moreover, the majority of mothers – 90% – who were breastfeeding had to use a toilet or were not provided any suitable space to do so. This is despite the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recommending employers provide a private, healthy and safe environment for breastfeeding mothers to express and store milk. The toilets are not a suitable place to express breast milk.
Joeli Brearley, CEO and founder of Pregnant Then Screwed commented, “These stats show how far we have to go before mothers are truly accepted as equal members of the workplace. We know that women are treated differently from the point they get pregnant. They are viewed as distracted and less committed to their work, despite there being no change to their performance. This bias plays out in numerous ways, affecting women’s earnings and career potential. There is absolutely no excuse for bosses, who hold the power, to tell their employee to abort a pregnancy. It is sex discrimination and it is inhumane”
The discrimination that women face doesn’t always come from their boss; in fact, 73% of women shared that a colleague made hurtful comments about their pregnancy or maternity leave, and 74% of women said that a colleague insinuated that their performance had dipped due to pregnancy or maternity leave. Some women even experience criticisms based on the way they look when they are pregnant – with 64% saying their boss or a colleague had made inappropriate comments about their looks.
It isn’t just about having children; women are being treated differently for decisions relating to their reproductive health. A third of women (31.58%) who told their employer about having an abortion felt that they experienced discrimination or were unfairly treated as a result. The majority of women (57.6%) did not tell their employer they had an abortion, presumably for fear of being judged negatively.
Joeli Brearley comments, “The bullying, harassment and aggression pregnant women experience at work has a detrimental impact on their mental health. The fact that the majority of pregnant women have experienced inappropriate and degrading comments from a colleague or their boss about the way they look is shameful. Why as a society do we accept women being a target for such abuse?’ These hurtful comments chip away at women’s confidence, their ambition and feeling of belonging. Pregnant women are made to feel like an unsightly burden, no wonder a high proportion of women report feeling depressed or anxious when pregnant and 1 in 5 women leave their employer after becoming pregnant.’’
If you or anyone you know has experienced discrimination in the workplace, please call the Pregnant Then Screwed helpline on Tel: 0161 2229879
Data analysis was powered by Women in Data® A sample of 3540 was randomly selected from a pool of 24,193 respondents to the survey. The sample is targeting national representation and is nationally representative on gender, region and social grade
Notes to editor:
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About the research:
Data analysis was powered by Women in Data® with a team led by Taisiya Merkulova.
A sample of 3540 was randomly selected from a pool of 24,193 respondents to the survey.
The sample is targeting national representation and is nationally representative on gender, region and social grade
- 52% of mothers say they faced some form of discrimination when pregnant, on maternity leave or when they returned.
- 7% of women lost their job through redundancy, sacking, or feeling forced to leave due to a flexible working request being declined or due to health and safety issues.
- 10% of women were bullied or harassed when pregnant or when returning to work
- 1 in 5 left their employer due to negative experiences
- 90% of women who were breastfeeding had to use a toilet or were not provided a suitable space.
- 73% of women said a colleague made hurtful comments about their pregnancy or maternity leave
- 74% of women said that someone insinuated that their performance had dipped due to pregnancy or maternity leave
- 1.62% of women said that their boss insinuated that they should end their pregnancy
- 64% said a boss or colleague made inappropriate comments about their looks when pregnant
How did we estimate the number of women who are being sacked or made redundant each year?
The most recent ONS report on conceptions in England and Wales per year estimates 824,983 pregnancies.
The most recent Government research on Women & The Economy estimates a female employment rate of 72.3%.Which means there were an estimated 596,463 (72.3% of 824,983) women in employment who were pregnant.
Pregnant Then Screwed’s voluntary ‘State of the Nation’ survey had weighting applied on UK regions, gender and social grade to create a final sample of 3,540 parents: 1,735 women and 1,805 men that targets national representation. Our sample showed that 7% of women had lost their job after becoming pregnant – through redundancy, sacking, or feeling forced to leave due to a flexible working request being declined or due to health and safety issues.
Using the above, we estimate that there could be as many as 41,752 (7% of 596,463) pregnant women or mothers sacked or made redundant every year.