Bosses stuck in ‘dark ages’ over new mums and pregnancy

THE attitudes of most British bosses towards pregnant women and moth­ers remain stuck in the dark ages, and lag decades behind the country’s law, Britain’s equality watchdog said on Monday (19).  

A survey of 1,106 senior decision-makers in business found nearly 60 per cent believed women should say whether they were pregnant when applying for a job, according to the Equality and Human Rights Com­mission (EHRC), which commis­sioned the research.  

More than a third said it was appropriate to ask candidates about their future plans to have children, and nearly half thought it was rea­sonable to ask job-seeking women whether they had young children, the survey found.  

“It is a depressing reality that, when it comes to the rights of pregnant woman and new mothers in the work­place, we are still living in the dark ag­es,” Rebecca Hilsenrath, chief execu­tive of the EHRC, said in a statement.  

A third of those surveyed believed new mothers were “generally less in­terested in career progression” com­pared with other workers, while four in 10 said pregnancy put “an unnec­essary cost burden” on the employer.  

British law prohibits employers from rejecting candidates because they are pregnant or might soon become pregnant.  

The EHRC urged businesses to work towards eliminating such dis­criminatory attitudes and urged them to join a campaign to improve workplace conditions for pregnant women and new parents.  

Yet advocates said a voluntary pledge for firms on its own was un­likely to curb discrimination, and said policymakers must strengthen legal protections for pregnant wom­en and new mothers.  

“It’s unfortunately the case that asking employers to do the right thing is not sufficient,” Rosalind Bragg, di­rector of Maternity Action, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.  

“We do need to have much more aggressive efforts from government to address the very poor behaviour of many dinosaur employers who are not complying with their legal obliga­tions.” (Thomson Reuters Foundation)