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Danielle Ayres, specialist maternity and pregnancy discrimination lawyer at Gorvins Solicitors, has today responded to new research by the Equality & Human Rights Commission (EHRC), which suggests that around 54,000 new mothers may be forced out of their jobs in Britain each year.

The research, carried out in partnership with the Department for Business Innovation and Skills, also found around 1 in 5 new mothers experienced harassment or negative comments from their colleagues, employer or manager when pregnant or returning from maternity leave.

Commenting on this, Danielle said, “We already knew this type of discrimination was prevalent, but the findings from this report are shocking to say the least with so many women feeling helpless with everything stacked up against them.”

This research paints a stark picture of the experiences of pregnant women and new mothers in the work place. As a leader in the field, Danielle set up the ‘Keeping Mum’ campaign upon her return from maternity leave after hundreds of women approached her during mother and baby groups, looking for specialist advice and support on their employment law issues.

Danielle again, “The birth of a child should be one of the happiest moments in any mothers life and to be faced with unfair and unlawful treatment by their employer is appalling. I set up Keeping Mum to give women a voice and make them feel they have support when dealing with discrimination from their employer.”

These findings are based on a survey of over 3,200 women by the EHRC, in which 11% of the women interviewed reported having been dismissed, made compulsorily redundant where others in their workplace were not, or treated so poorly they felt they had to leave their jobs.  If replicated across the population as a whole, this could mean as many as 54,000 women losing their jobs each year.

However, the research shows that it is not all employers discriminating against their staff. Across a range of industries many say they are firm supporters of female staff during and after their pregnancies and find it easy to comply with the law.

The findings of the report state:

  • Two thirds of employers don’t think that pregnancy puts an unreasonable cost burden on the workplace. Firms that have recent experience of employing pregnant women are more positive; and
  • Two thirds of mothers (66%) felt their employer supported them willingly during pregnancy and when they returned to work.

“I have worked with many employers who are actively supporting women in the workplace and have created enhanced policies to offer their staff another degree of protection,” mentions Danielle.

A survey conducted by leading maternity charity, Maternity Action, in 2013 attempted to bring to light the unacceptable issues facing women each year, suggesting up to 60,000 pregnant women and new mothers are set to be forced out of work each year. This new research has confirmed this.

Caroline Waters, Deputy Chair of the EHRC, said:

“This research reveals the worrying levels of discrimination and disadvantage at work that women still face today. Not only is discrimination unlawful, but it is also bad for business.

“That’s why today we’re launching a major initiative to bring this issue into the public eye, improve awareness of the law and work with business and other groups to find workable solutions.”

Gorvins Solicitors and Danielle Ayres have 100% commitment to the #worksforme initiative to reduce pregnancy and maternity discrimination. The Keeping Mum campaign will continue to provide practical advice and information for women and employers on their rights and responsibilities.