Campaign launched to tackle pregnancy discrimination towards 31,000 Scottish women

Industry, charities and politicians declare united front over the battle to end pregnancy discrimination in Scotland's workplaces

31,000 SCOTTISH WOMEN have reported being negatively treat in their workplace during pregnancy, on their maternity leave or after returning to work, it has been announced ahead of a new campaing to end pregnancy discrimination.

The figures were released by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) which launched a new national campaign with the support of UK and Scottish companies and MPs, to make workplaces accessible for pregnant women and new mothers.

Working Forward was launched in response to data showing that 94 per cent of Scottish businesses said supporting  pregnant women and those on maternity leave would aid their business practices, which was in contrast to the three quarters of Scottish mothers who reported a negative or discriminatory experience at work.

"Change comes from the top, and for big organisations to get together and promote the interests of pregnant women and new mothers in the workplace, we can counter the culture of discrimination." Angela Crawley

Angela Crawley who is the SNP spokesperson for equalities, women and children attended the launch of the campaign in Westminister.

Speaking to CommonSpace she said: "Research by the EHRC revealed 77 per cent of pregnant women and mothers have faced discrimination in the workplace - that is unacceptable in this day and age.

"The same research found around one in nine mothers have been dismissed, made redundant or were treated so poorly that they had to leave their jobs, meaning their skills and experience are lost from the workforce.

"Change comes from the top, and for big organisations to get together and promote the interests of pregnant women and new mothers in the workplace, we can counter the culture of discrimination."

Women earn 18 per cent less an hour than men and the gender pay gap widens for in the years after childbirth for mothers, reaching a 33 per cent difference on average after 12 years.

Businesses who are in support of ending discrimination towards pregnant women and mothers signed up to a pledge which reads: "I pledge to make my workplace the best it can be for pregnant women and new mothers." 

The discrimination described by three out of four working mothers in Scotland includes dismissal, detrimental impact on both their mental and psychical health, financial loss or being harassed by their line manager or colleagues.

The EHRC has previously made recommendations such as ending the practice of women being asked whether they intend to have children in job interviews.

In 2015 only 28 per cent of mothers in work raised the issue of discrimination with their employer, with only 3 per cent going through their employer’s internal grievance procedure, and less than 1 per cent pursuing a claim to an independent employment tribunal. 

2013 saw the introduction of tribunal fees of up to £1,200, and as a result the number of sex discrimination cases dropped by 76 per cent and the declaration of pregnancy-related cases fell by 50 per cent.

As of March 2015, figures from the Scottish Government showed there were 359,050 small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Scotland, providing 1.2m jobs.

In the UK wide research the majority of employers, up to 70 per cent, believed that a woman should declare at the recruitment stage if they were pregnant and 24 per cent thought that it was reasonable to ask women of childbearing age about their plans to have children at interview.

The latest findings add weight to 2015 research into pregnancy and maternity discrimination based on a survey of more than 3,000 mothers and 3,000 employers across the UK. 

According to the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS), women earn 18 per cent less an hour than men and the gender pay gap widens for in the years after childbirth for mothers, reaching a 33 per cent difference on average after 12 years. 

The campaign in the UK has gained the backing of business bodies including the Institute of Directors (IoD), the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), and the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).

However the EHRC in Scotland was at pains to stress that the support and solutions in Scotland would need to be different given that Scotland has less big companies and more small and middle sized businessness. 

As of March 2015, figures from the Scottish Government showed there were 359,050 small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Scotland, providing 1.2m jobs.

SMEs accounted for 99.4 per cent of all private sector enterprises, 55.6 per cent of private sector employment and 39.4 per cent of public sector employment. 

Picture course of Ruth MacCormick

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