By David Aspinall
Expectant mothers across Manchester and the North West are being forced to end their maternity leave early due to financial pressures, a new survey shows.
More than one in two (53%) of women surveyed had to return to work early, according to Boardrooms and Babies, which was commissioned by maternitycover.com.
Even more worrying is the statistic that 43% got into financial debt during their leave, with 23% blaming their firm’s poor maternity package and not being able to survive on statutory pay alone.
Paul Jenkins, CEO of the website, said: “Women face countless unspoken taboos when it comes to having children and maintaining a career.
“We wanted to drill down into what women really experience, practically and financially, in the workplace when a baby appears on the scene.”
Siobhan Freegard, founder of Britain’s biggest parenting website Netmums.com, said: “No matter how hard women save, the spiralling cost of living makes surviving on basic maternity pay very challenging, forcing women back to work before they are ready.”
To compound financial issues 62% of women disclosed they earn less after having a baby than they did before, with only 3% receiving a pay rise.
More than three-quarters of the mothers asked believed their prospects of career advancement were affected dramatically after giving birth.
Discrimination isn’t reserved to ‘ordinary’ working mothers, though.
Earlier this year Yvette Cooper confirmed she had been subjected to discrimination during her third pregnancy, when she became the first government minister to take maternity leave while in office.
Martin Price, Senior Principal Lawyer in Employment Law at the Manchester office of Slater & Gordon, believes this is a ‘significant’ issue.
Mr Price says he has seen a case where a female director was warned by her Chief Executive Officer she would be ‘finished’ if she took maternity leave for a second time.
When she did take her obligatory maternity leave, she was made redundant, but once she took her case to tribunal her former employers had to settle the claim for a six figure sum.
Mr Price said: “[Maternity leave discrimination cases] is very common and increasingly so.
“The results of a survey we commissioned in August showed that one in four mums who have returned to work believe they’ve been subjected to discrimination.”
In this survey more than a quarter of the 1,000 women asked had their request for more flexible hours refused and 5% accepted a different role in the same company.
Problems aren’t restricted to mothers, with one in three women of childbearing age believing they have been overlooked for a promotion simply because of their age.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, half of the women polled admitted they would not necessarily divulge being pregnant when offered a promotion or new job, with 59% saying their disclosure would depend on what position they were being offered.
It would appear that employers in the region are missing a trick though.
Of the maternitycover.com survey, 73% of women asked believe they are better employees after giving birth, with almost a third putting this down to being better focused and organised.
Furthermore Ms Freeguard says mothers make 80% of household buying decisions giving them vital insider knowledge either during or after their pregnancy.
Nationally 1,368 women completed the survey with 150 responses coming from the North West.
These statistics come hot on the heels of last week’s revelations that figures in the House of Commons library showed 50,000 women per year are unable to return to their previous role due to discrimination.
This figure accounts for nearly 15% of all women who take maternity leave annually and many cite the inflexible nature of their working hours in relation their new family life.
This goes against Government directions that state employees returning from either maternity or paternity leave, should be offered the same job, or if that is no longer available, a similar position, qualified as a role with the same or better conditions.
Problems could be compounded after the Government placed a set fee of £1200 for all maternity discrimination cases made at an employment tribunal.
Despite these fees being imposed to deter frivolous claims, Mr Price believes the fees may prove to be a disincentive, especially when they will be payable when the mother is at her ‘financially most vulnerable’, even if they are subsequently recovered from her employer after a successful claim.
If you believe you have been the subject of discrimination in your workplace due to pregnancy or maternity leave visit http://www.slatergordon.co.uk/contact-us/manchester/ for contact details.
Picture courtesy of Travor Bair, with thanks.