Pregnancy Discrimination At Home and Abroad

Pregnancy discrimination is still a problem in the workplace, both at home and abroad.
By: | February 21, 2018 • 3 min read
Pregnancy discrimination

Ideas about pregnancy and hiring in the workplace appear to be rather archaic across the pond. Results from a study conducted by the Equality and Human Rights Commission found that business leaders in the United Kingdom may hold unfavorable opinions about what’s appropriate in the workplace.

More than one-third of senior decision makers (36 percent) surveyed think it’s okay to ask women during the recruitment process about their plans to have children in the future. Nearly 60 percent said that women should disclose pregnancy during the recruitment process and almost half (46 percent) said women should disclose if they have young children.

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More than 1,100 senior business leaders in the U.K. responded to this survey, which was conducted by YouGov, on behalf of the EHRC. And if those numbers aren’t cringe-worthy enough, 44 percent of respondents think that a woman should work at a company for at least one year before having children.

Somehow, nearly one-third of respondents think that women who return to work as new mothers are “generally less interested in career progression” when compared to other colleagues.

Rebecca Hilsenrath, chief executive of the EHRC said this line of thinking about the rights of pregnant women and mothers in the workplace keeps organizations in the “dark ages.”

“We should all know very well that it is against the law not to appoint a woman just because she is pregnant or might become pregnant. Yet we also know that women routinely get asked questions around family planning in interviews. It’s clear that many employers need more support to better understand the basics of discrimination in the law and the rights of pregnant women and new mothers,” said Hilsenrath.

Though it’s easy to shame the respondents of this survey, the U.S. isn’t off the hook. Let’s not forget, the U.S. is the only industrialized country that doesn’t offer paid family medical leave (unless you live in one of five states).

Between fiscal years 2011 and 2015, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and state-level fair-employment practice agencies received nearly 31,000 charges of pregnancy discrimination. The EEOC alone received approximately 28,901 pregnancy discrimination charges between fiscal years 2010 and 2017.

On a basic level, employers acknowledge that it’s illegal to discriminate against pregnant women or working mothers. But, as the research indicates, this acknowledgement doesn’t go much farther. And not only is this a huge disservice to half of the population, but it’s a disservice to employers.

In New Jersey, one of the five states with a family medical leave act, about 60 percent of medium- and large-sized businesses report no increased administrative costs as a result of the state’s paid family leave program.

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A report from Rutgers’ Center for Women and Work found that a majority of women who take paid leave (93 percent) are more likely to return to work nine to twelve months after a child’s birth than women who don’t take leave. According to another study in California, workers in “lower-quality” jobs who used the state’s paid-leave program were 10 percent more likely to return to work than those who didn’t use the program.

Implementing paid leave isn’t as burdensome as employers thought and may be extremely helpful for a company’s bottom line. According to data from an EY survey, employers that offer paid family medical leave benefits reported “positive outcomes in profitability, productivity of workforce and preparedness to deal with employee absences.”

Danielle Westermann King, staff writer for HRE, received her bachelor’s degree in English from Temple University. She has written and edited articles for various print and online healthcare publications and is now setting her sights on human resources. She can be reached at [email protected]

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