10 Jun 2014
Following a recent survey suggesting over a quarter of mothers in the UK feel discriminated against at work,
HardingEvans Head of Employment, Daniel Wilde discusses the ways in which working parents need to be supported.
Last week, the BBC produced a startling report exposing the many ways mothers are made to feel discriminated against in the work place.
The report found that a large number of working mothers find it impossible to climb the career ladder, with 29 per cent feeling overlooked for a promotion due to their maternal responsibilities. A shocking 54 per cent admitted their employer could have done more to support them.
The law forbids discrimination based on pregnancy: this includes anything from hiring and firing, to job assignments, to fringe benefits.Mothers should be protected against unfair treatment: so why do these new figures suggest otherwise? Unfortunately, many employers have a negative attitude to women who take maternity leave and part time employees.
At HardingEvans, we have a more positive policy on our approach to working mothers.We offer flexible working hours wherever possible, as well as encouraging work life balance.We also provide “keep in touch days”, to carefully prepare the employee for their transition back into work.
Other employers should also adopt a positive flexible approach.Employers have a responsibility to manage maternity leave efficiently and positively reintegrate mothers on their return to work.
Financially, it is often cheaper to pay maternity leave and have the benefit of the return to work of an experienced employee who is committed to the business, rather than make an employee feel so discriminated against they leave, forcing the firm to hire an unknown member of staff.It is a risky business, and one that can be avoided by treating your dedicated employee with the courtesy and support they deserve.
This year we have had six mothers return to work following their maternity leave.All have returned to continued support, ensuring their lives as working mothers remain manageable.
Sara Uren, a HardingEvans solicitor specialising in clinical negligence, recently returned to the firm following maternity leave.Speaking of her leave, she said:
“Having a child can be a frightening time for a mother: it is vital for firms to recognise this, and ensure the employee is never made to feel pressured or victimised.I am fortunate to work for a company that offers all manner of support, with mothers given the chance to work flexibly and creatively.
“Proactive steps were taken to ensure that working up until my maternity leave was stress free and the transition of my caseload to another fee earner went smoothly.I was kept up to date regularly while on maternity leave of any new developments, which made returning to work that much easier.”
Employers need to be aware that less favourable treatment of employees in consequence of pregnancy maternity is unlawful sex discrimination and can expose employers to significant legal claims. With plans in 2015 for laws implementing shared parental leave and pay, it remains to be seen whether employers will adopt an increasingly supportive approach to all working parents.
Daniel Wilde is a partner and head of employment law at HardingEvans Solicitors.
Harding Evans is a trading name of Harding Evans LLP, a limited liability partnership, registered in England & Wales (registered number: OC311802), authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA number: 419663).