One in seven women are made redundant after maternity leave

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One in seven women are made redundant after maternity leave
Katie Tantum took her employer, a top City law firm, to an employment tribunal over illegal dismissal. Photograph: Roland Hoskins/SOLO Syndication

Women are suffering escalating levels of illegal discrimination at work when they get pregnant, and are often made redundant while they are on maternity leave, according to a new poll.

The figures show one in seven of the women surveyed had lost their job while on maternity leave; 40% said their jobs had changed by the time they returned, with half reporting a cut in hours or demotion. More than a tenth had been replaced in their jobs by the person who had covered their maternity leave.

Samantha Mangwana, an employment lawyer at Slater & Gordon, the law firm which commissioned the research, said the results were “sad and shocking”.

“Women are suffering in silence,” she said. “A common case is that a woman goes back to her role and all her clients have been given to other people. And they are not returned. So everything she has built up over the years is gone. Or they are simply being made redundant ahead of worse-performing men. The big issue is that women are somehow seen as being less committed to their employers because they are now mothers. Many companies are settling out of court because they don’t want to be seen to be treating pregnant women or new mothers like this. But the awful thing is that I see the same major companies again and again and again, writing out these cheques – accompanied, of course, with a confidentiality clause.”

Research company OnePoll questioned 1,000 women last month. On returning to their jobs, almost a third of the new mothers (30%) felt they didn’t fit in any more and two in five felt they lacked support, with almost 20% feeling that no one understood what it was like juggling work with new motherhood. Nearly one in 10 said the stress affected their relationship with their partner. Only 3% had sought legal advice over maternity discrimination; 10% had sought help from their HR department.

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