A Wandsworth mum pressured into quitting her job when she became pregnant speaks out as new figures reveal maternity discrimination is on the rise.
Citizens Advice revealed there has been a 25% increase in people reporting pregnancy and maternity discrimination between April 2015 and March 2016.
Wandsworth mum Kate*, who was working for a plumbing company in 2014 when she became pregnant, ended up quitting her job because of the discrimination she faced.
“From the beginning I felt like they wanted me to quit so they could hire someone who wasn’t pregnant,” she said.
“I would get told off for too many toilet breaks, even though I always finished my work, and I would get nasty stares from my manager.”
Kate was also told she would not be paid maternity leave as she hadn’t been at the company long enough, and that any scans or hospital appointments would be taken out of her holiday time.
“I thought this was shocking,” she said.
“I think they thought they could take advantage of my lack of knowledge on the subject, but I spoke to hospital staff, Citizens Advice and other mothers to get much information as possible.”
Recent research by the Equality and Human Rights Commission reveal that over three quarters (77%) of mothers reported a negative or possibly discriminatory experience at work during their pregnancy, maternity leave or on their return to work.
Evidence from Citizens Advice also reveals pregnant women and new mums have had their working hours cut, been put on zero-hours contracts and pressured to return to work early from maternity leave.
They have also seen a 22% increase in people seeking online help, with the charity’s web advice viewed 22,000 times over the past 12 months.
Citizens Advice chief executive, Gillian Guy, said: “Pregnant women should be supported at work, not made to fear for their livelihood.
“It is concerning that more and more new and expectant mums are experiencing discrimination issues at work.
“People with a baby on the way will have a lot on their minds already. The last thing they need is a threat to their income or job security.
“All employers should respect and uphold the rights of staff who are new parents or expecting a baby.”
The release of these figures follows controversy on social media over the idea of ‘me-ternity leave for those without children, the subject of a new book by American author Meghann Foye.
Slept half the night on the couch with the baby because he cried every hour unless he was held. "Me time." #meternity
— S (@suzgraggen) April 30, 2016
The debate culminated on ITV’s This Morning when presenter Holly Willoughby criticising Foye in a live interview for comparing maternity leave to a holiday.
Unless you're a masochist. Then yes, maternity is a 'break' like #meternity . A messy, bloody, poopy, sleep deprived vacation.
— Sheila Nagig (@TheSheilaNagig) April 30, 2016
For free, impartial advice on pregnancy and maternity discrimination from Citizens Advice, go to www.citizensadvice.org.uk
*name has been changed.
Featured picture courtesy of Susan, with thanks