By now, we are all very aware that it’s against the law to decide not to appoint a woman to a role because she’s pregnant, or has plans to start a family. So it might come as a surprise to discover the findings from a recent survey by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).
46% of employers thought it was reasonable to ask women whether they had young children during the recruitment and selection process, and 44% believed that women should be working for a business for at least one year before they decide to have a child. More than half (59%) of employers admitted that they felt that a woman should have to reveal that she’s pregnant when applying for a role.
The statistics will be shocking to many, and EHRC has called upon decision makers to take positive steps towards changing outdated attitudes, and ensure that legislation around pregnancy and maternity is adhered to.
EHRC chief executive, Rebecca Hilsenrath, commented ‘It is a depressing reality that, when it comes to the rights of pregnant woman and new mothers in the workplace, we are still living in the dark ages… We also know that women routinely get asked questions around family planning in interviews. It’s clear that many employers need more support to better understand the basics of discrimination law and the rights of pregnant women and new mothers’.
It’s worth taking a step back here and taking a good look at the circumstances that are at play. We like to think that most employers are passionate about complying with the law, and creating a working environment in which everyone – regardless of their personal circumstances – is encouraged to thrive. So why does the research highlight such shocking opinions, in big numbers?
When you’re running a small business, you can’t avoid the fact that you’ve got limited resources and operational requirements, and a pregnancy announcement could cause you some real and legitimate concerns. But the answer isn’t to complain about – or blatantly ignore – legislation that exists for very good reasons.
Forward thinking business owners need to step up to the plate and create solutions that will protect their employer brand, and ensure that they’re capable of effectively handling the HR challenges that will no doubt come their way. It’s clear that there is some serious work that needs to be done, and employers need to focus on building line manager capability and challenging the status quo if they want to stand the test of time.
If you know that a pregnancy in your workplace would be likely to cause issues, or if it’s something that you’re trying to take the right approach to at the moment, then let’s talk.
We can help you to create a plan that will ensure that you’re giving your staff the appropriate support whilst keeping your business on track and on the right side of the law.