British working mothers and fathers in full or part-time work are being advised to read-up on their company maternity/paternity leave rights, after revealing many have faced discrimination at work, a leading discrimination solicitor says, as YouGov research found half (50%) of GB employees are unaware of their legal rights.
A YouGov survey of 2,061 GB adults (18+) discovered that 20% of British mothers, which equates to one in five, have faced negative treatment at work, either by an employer or other employees, as a result of becoming a new parent.
This rises to almost three in 10 (28%) of Gen X parents (aged 35-44 years old) and over a quarter of millennial parents (27%) (aged 25-34 years old) have faced this discrimination.
Commissioned by national law firm Stephensons, almost half (49%) of employed millennials are unaware of their company’s maternity/paternity leave rights in their current employment.
The survey showed that only a third (33%) of fathers and half (50%) of mothers had taken maternity leave, paternity leave, shared parental leave or adoption leave.
For those parents returning to work after maternity or paternity leave almost a third (31%) of British adults judged their employer as being ‘not flexible.’
The survey results suggest similar findings to a report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission into pregnancy and maternity-related discrimination. These statistics found one in nine mothers said they felt forced to leave their job, while one in 10 mothers were discouraged from attending antenatal appointments by their employer.
The Equality Act 2010 states pregnancy discrimination is when someone treats you unfairly because you are pregnant, breastfeeding or you have recently given birth.
Mothers are currently allowed up to 52 weeks of maternity leave and are paid statutory maternity pay for 39 weeks. The first six weeks are paid at 90% of the woman’s average weekly earnings before tax. The remaining 33 weeks are paid at £148.68 per week or 90% of their average weekly earnings, whichever is lower. However, some employers can offer more than the statutory amounts if they have a company maternity scheme in place.
While employers now legally have to offer new fathers one or two weeks paid paternity leave if their partner is having a baby, going through surrogacy or they are adopting a child.
Maria Chadwick, Partner & Discrimination Department Manager at Stephensons Solicitors LLP, said: “Worryingly, almost three in 10 of Gen X parents and almost the same number of millennial parents have faced discrimination at work. Dealing with this kind of prejudice in the workplace amounts to harassment, which is both upsetting for new parents and illegal.
“It is surprising that only a third of fathers and half of mothers have taken paternity leave, maternity leave, shared parental leave or adoption leave, but this could be because some mothers and fathers were not employed at the time their child was born.”
“However, I urge working parents to read-up on their legal rights for their own peace-of-mind and protection. Being prepared and aware of your rights as a parent works well for both the employee and an employer, as both can actively plan for cover and this will ensure a welcome return to work.
“My advice for soon-to-be parents is to consult with their HR team and become informed of their rights to avoid missing out on crucial time spent with their new-born.
“While employers should make more of an effort to actively engage with employees, make sure maternity/paternity leave pay and policies are clear and available to staff and agree a maternity/paternity leave package. Otherwise, they are likely to face higher staff turnover and spike in legal cases against them.”
Sweden is a trailblazer in maternity and paternity rights and is well known for its generous parental leave policy. The government offers each parent 240 days paid leave at roughly 80% of their salary – plus bonus days in cases of twins.
Classic examples of discriminatory or negative treatment at work:
• Rejected flexible work requests
• Denied promotion opportunities during maternity/paternity and/or return to work
• Harassing an employee for being pregnant with inappropriate comments
• Refusing to hire someone who is pregnant
• Penalising a woman who is sick during her pregnancy
• Failure to communicate with an employee on maternity leave
• Health and safety breaches against pregnant employees or new mothers
• Being replaced during maternity/paternity leave and offered another role on return to work
• Being marginalised or ignored before and/or after maternity/paternity leave
• Increase in workload with no amendments made to reflect flexible working requests
Tips to protect yourself against pregnancy discrimination in the workplace:
• Read your employee handbook and research your rights
• Inform your employer of your pregnancy as soon as possible
• Notify your employer of pregnancy-related health conditions
• Report any incidents of discrimination to HR
• Document every detail in a diary
• If you find yourself the victim of pregnancy discrimination, speak to your line manager, union representative or HR team to try and informal sort out the matter
• If you decide to pursue a claim, hire a solicitor who specialises in pregnancy discrimination