Occasionally you read something about the world of work that seriously pisses you off. Something that you kind of already know, but you see it in a tweet or an infographic or a blog post, and you get angry.
Because it 2015 and this should not be happening.
I’ve used this blog before to argue that many organisations are still working in the dark ages. That many employees are still being treated appalling in the course of their employment. That for every enlightened employer there is in turn, an exploiter or a discriminator, or someone who just couldn’t care less about their people.
If you don’t believe me, then how about this for a statistic? Each year, in England, Scotland and Wales, 54,000 women lose their job because of pregnancy discrimination. That is one in nine pregnant women in the workforce. And those figures are just for those that end up out of work. The same research that gave us that figure, also found that one in five women and new mothers experience harassment or negative comments from their employer or their colleagues related to their pregnancy or flexible working arrangements.
In 2015. Decades after the Sex Discrimination Act. Years after flexible working became available for all.
Even more worryingly, this is a worsening situation. Similar research ten years ago found 30,000 women being forced out of work – but we have now nearly doubled that figure. How has this happened? More problematically, we now have a situation in which pregnant women are being discriminated against, but with the additional impact of employment tribunal fees meaning that many of these women have no recourse to justice*.
There is another Twitter account that I follow, that tells its own horror stories. If you don’t follow @PregnantScrewed then a review of their timeline will give you the personal stories behind the statistics. They are in some cases, heartbreaking.
Change is long overdue.
Maternity Action and the Alliance Against Pregnancy Discrimination are campaigning for the Government to take action to prevent pregnancy discrimination, not leave it up to individual women to sort it out on their own (if indeed they are able to). You can find more out about their campaign here.
Get involved. Follow them on Twitter. Read the stories.
And if you work in HR, don’t let this happen, wherever you work. Not in 2015, not ever.
*Here is what has happened to new ET cases, highlighting the access to justice issue. Graph kindly supplied by @WonkyPolicyWonk.
I was an employment lawyer and my boss (female, mother of 4) and I were discrimination experts. I was constructively dismissed after they found out I was returning after maternity leave pregnant again. I now work in HR. If experts who advise on the law can’t understand why they should apply it….