Maternity Smoke and Mirrors


In June 2013 attention grabbing headlines in the media trumpeted ‘Women  are suffering escalating levels of illegal discrimination at work when they get pregnant, and are often made redundant while they are on maternity leave’.

Research Company OnePoll questioned 1,000 women. On returning to their jobs, almost a third of the new mothers (30%) felt they didn’t fit in any more and two in five felt they lacked support, with almost 20% feeling that no one understood what it was like juggling work with new motherhood. Nearly one in 10 said the stress affected their relationship with their partner. Only 3% had sought legal advice over maternity discrimination; 10% had sought help from their HR department.

However it follows, if you believe this survey that six out of seven women are not made redundant after maternity leave.

Hot on the heels of this on 8th August 2013 The research of 2,000 working mothers  – this time by Kiran Daurka another employment lawyer at the same law firm of Slater and Gordon – are discriminated against at work, either while pregnant or when returning to work, according to research published today.

Half of those polled said they felt left out or not taken seriously at work after having a child, while two in five believed younger colleagues with no children were given more support and encouragement.

Three in five said they thought pregnancy was a problem in their workplace and a third said they found it “impossible” to climb the career ladder after giving birth.

The research found almost half of working mothers felt having children halted their career progression and four in 10 felt they don’t have sufficient support from their managers.

Despite the ‘sad and shocking’ results, we should bear in mind the total number of live births in the UK in 2011 was 723,913 according to the office of National Statistics, so exactly how representative is a poll of 1,000 and another of 2,000 new mothers?

One muses on how often law firms finance surveys – other than for commercial advantage – and just who would benefit from law suits about maternity leave? Employment lawyers?   Now there’s a surprise!

In this life one can’t have everything one wants – even though in a previous century women were fed the line that ‘you can have it all’ – and legislation to attempt to make it so is surely doomed to failure.

We read of high profile cases going to Employment Tribunal and the ‘lottery’ sums being claimed for sex discrimination but sadly all these cases do is make it harder for women of child-bearing age to secure high-quality employment and advancement.

Carol H Scott