A YouGov poll for Young Women’s Trust has revealed that 1 in 10 (10%) HR managers say they would be reluctant to hire a woman they thought may go on to start a family. While it is illegal to ask women whether they have children or plan to start a family during recruitment, 1 in 5 HR managers (19%) said that being pregnant or having young children negatively affects a woman’s chances of progression or promotion.
The new research also suggests that the pressures of increased caring responsibilities in the last year are not being met with greater flexibility from employers. More than 1 in 8 (12%) of female HR managers said they were aware of women with caring responsibilities being refused flexible or part-time working.
17% of HR managers agreed that pregnancy within the first year of employment is frowned upon within their organisation, a view reflected in the policies of many employers, who will not give Statutory Maternity Leave to women who become pregnant within their first 26 weeks in an organisation.
These findings follow on from earlier research from Young Women’s Trust in November 2020, which found that in a survey of 2,000 young women in England and Wales aged 18 to 30 almost a quarter (23%) of young women with children said they had been discriminated against because of being pregnant, on maternity leave or returning to work after maternity leave.
Young Women’s Trust Communications and Campaigns Director Joe Levenson said:
“Women continue to face discrimination in the workplace, being penalised purely because they have children or may go on to have them. There must be no place for such discriminatory and unlawful behaviour, which not only has a devastating impact on women’s careers and finances but which also continues to lock talented women out of key roles in too many workplaces.
This is not an issue which will fade with the reopening of schools, but a deeper problem of entrenched discrimination and outdated attitudes to working women with children. Our findings make the case even stronger for the tough enforcement of mandatory gender pay gap reporting, ensuring better data collection on protected characteristics and wider use of Equality Impact Assessments. Without such measures, we risk turning the clock back on gender equality in the workplace.”
Laura experienced discrimination when she became pregnant, she said:
“I was in education and working a male dominated sales job too. When I became pregnant the employer made it obvious that they were not supportive. I went from being a valued member of the team to the end of all the jokes. Lots of ‘throwing your life away’ ‘Vicky Pollard going on benefits’ style abuse. When I came back from maternity leave I was told I didn’t have a job in that store, I should stay at home on benefits and if I did want to come back I should go to a different store.”
Joeli Brearley, CEO, Pregnant Then Screwed said:
“Discrimination in the workplace is very much alive and kicking, in fact, it’s more prevalent than ever thanks to the pressure placed on employers during the pandemic. Old biases are running wild and employers are making rash decisions, forcing pregnant women and mothers out of their jobs based on their parental status, rather than their performance. Young mums, who often work in more precarious employment and are usually at the start of their career, are particularly susceptible to this type of discrimination. More needs to be done to protect these women as allowing this type of discrimination to flourish will increase child poverty whilst simultaneously guaranteeing that the true potential of these young women is never realised.”
Note to editors
- Young Women’s Trust is a charity that supports and represents women in England and Wales aged 18 to 30 on low or no pay. The charity provides services to support young women into careers and campaigns for economic justice.
- Young Women’s Trust commissioned YouGov to conduct a survey of HR decision-makers. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 862 senior HR professionals / people managers. Fieldwork was undertaken between 11 to 17 February 2021. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of the UK business population by size and sector.
The findings show that:
- 10% of HR managers say they would be reluctant to hire a woman they thought may go on to start a family, compared to 2% of HR managers who said they would be reluctant to hire a man they thought may go on to start a family
- 20% believe that being pregnant or having young children has a negative impact on organisational decisions regarding a woman’s career progression or promotion
- 12% of female HR managers said they were aware of women with caring responsibilities being refused flexible or part-time working
- 17% of HR managers agreed that pregnancy within the first year of employment is frowned upon within their organisation
- Picking up the pieces: Young women’s experiences of 2020 surveyed 2000 young women and 2000 young men and was published in November 2020