New statistics released today by the Equality and Human Rights commission (EHRC) show the shocking extent to which British employers are ignorant to the rights of pregnant women and new mothers, putting them at risk of discrimination claims from both existing and prospective employees.

The sizeable survey of over 1,100 senior decisions makers, conducted by YouGov on behalf of the EHRC, aimed to understand their attitudes around pregnancy and maternity discrimination.

The results, where over a third of private sector employers felt it was acceptable to ask women about family plans, bring to light a number of glaring knowledge gaps on behalf of senior decision makers; seemingly oblivious to the fact these attitudes are all examples of illegal discriminatory behaviour.

Danielle Ayres, Senior Employment Solicitor and maternity and pregnancy discrimination specialist at Gorvins Solicitors shocked by the findings says: “As a working mother of two, the statistics are hard to read as they show a damming attitude towards pregnant women and new mothers, which is hugely disappointing but unsurprising.

What the majority of those surveyed don’t seem to appreciate is the benefits and advantages of employing new mums. Pregnant women and new mums are often portrayed negatively in the press, rather than the benefits they bring to a workplace.”

Perhaps one of the most shocking statistics centres around 59% of employers agreeing that a woman should have to disclose whether she is pregnant during the recruitment process, and almost half (46%) of employers agreeing it is reasonable to ask women if they have young children during the recruitment process.

The Equality Act 2010 makes discrimination on the grounds of certain protected characteristics, such as sex, race, age, disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy or religious belief, unlawful. Moreover, and what many employers fail to realise is that these rights protect not only existing employees but also potential ones too.

“This view taken by so many UK employers could be putting thousands of businesses at risk of discrimination claims. What employers need to realise is there are so many benefits of employing mums, not least due to the experiences they gain whilst they are on maternity leave being invaluable.”

EHRC chief executive Rebecca Hilsenrath said: “It is a depressing reality that, when it comes the rights of pregnant woman and new mothers in the workplace, we are still living in the dark ages.

“We should all know very well that it is against the law not to appoint a woman because she is pregnant or might become pregnant.

“Yet we also know women routinely get asked questions around family planning in interviews.”

Danielle concludes to say, “If employers provide flexibility and help mums out with the work/life balance that they are facing then they are more likely to be more dedicated and loyal to them.

It will almost certainly increase their morale and many working mums I speak to say they often they squeeze 5 days’ worth of work in to 3.

There are so many benefits of employing mums, not least due to the experiences they gain whilst they are on maternity leave being invaluable.

The skills needed to juggle a mini-being as well as dealing with everything else life throws at you means that motherhood does of course sharpen existing skills which make working mums more productive, examples are their ability to prioritise, manage time effectively and plan for every eventuality.

I believe more needs to be done to reassess how employers evaluate a new mother’s potential attitude and commitment to work in order to address the negative bias towards pregnant employees and those returning from maternity leave.”

Danielle is mother to two young boys and a Senior Associate in employment Law at Gorvins Solicitors, specialising in pregnancy/maternity and sex discrimination cases.

She is one of the go-to solicitors in this area within the UK, working closely with a number of specialist partners and organisations, including Pregnant Then Screwed and Working Mums who support working women and mums to challenge unfair treatment as a result of their pregnancy and/or maternity leave.

Danielle is available for comment on this story, for enquiries please contact or call 0161 930 5278.

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