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Motherhood can seriously affect a woman's career, says TUC

Despite the protection of the law, thousands of new and expectant mothers are facing discrimination or detrimental treatment in the workplace, according to a report from the TUC.

'The Pregnancy Test: Ending discrimination at work for new mothers' claims that poor employer attitudes towards mothers-to-be since the economic downturn began has been made plain by a jump in associated employment tribunal receipts.

In the five years from 2008 to 2013, the number of cases rose by a fifth, with more than 9,000 women taking their employers to tribunal over maternity-related issues.

The true number of mums who have suffered bad treatment is likely to be far higher, the report speculated, saying that few new mothers had the appetite for a lengthy legal battle in the early months of childcare.

Tribunal fees may have further discouraged women to bring a claim, particularly those on statutory maternity pay, it added.

'This report shows that for many women what should be one of the happiest times of their lives soon becomes full of anxiety and stress - one where bullying, harassment and ill-treatment in the workplace is an unacceptably common experience,' TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady said.

Financially damaging

Pregnancy and motherhood can have a lasting impact on a woman's career and livelihood, according to the report.

Around a quarter of women abandon their career and decide not to go back to work after maternity leave. Of those who return, one in six change jobs because their employers won't provide suitable flexible working arrangements for them.

The majority of mums with children in nursery or primary school work part-time, as do half of those with kids in secondary school - while only 10 per cent of dads do the same, the report said.

The hourly rate for female part-timers is about a third less than for their full-time male counterparts, it said, with two-fifths of part-time women earning less than the living wage.

It recommended better paid leave to encourage dads to play a greater role in the care of their children and mothers a greater chance to progress at work; and a greater uptake of flexible working practices.

The introduction of Shared Parental Leave from 5 April 2015 is expected to bring new levels of flexibility for parents in the way they share work and caring responsibilities for their child.

Parents will be able to share a 50-week 'pot' of leave, and can decide to be off work at the same time or take turns, or a combination of both.

Acas publications and services

pdf icon Shared Parental Leave: a good practice guide for employers and employees [786kb] can be downloaded for free on the Acas website, where further information for Parents and carers on Shared parental leave and pay is also available.


Acas experts can visit your organisation and help you develop effective policies for working parents; see Parents and carers: how Acas can help for details.

Acas training on Maternity, paternity and adoption, Flexible working, and Equality, diversity and the Equality Act 2010 will keep you up to speed with all the changes surrounding Shared Parental Leave, as well as improve your understanding of the law in the way it relates to other family-relevant employment legislation.

For free, impartial advice and guidance visit Acas Helpline Online.

Visit the Acas Training Courses, Workshops and Projects area for more information.

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