Businesses join coalition to end workplace discrimination for pregnant women

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Big businesses across the UK have joined forces to fight against workplace discrimination for pregnant and new mothers.

The new initiative, Working Forward, aims to inspire other businesses to follow the founding member’s example by working to end discrimination within their businesses and make the best use of their female workforce.

Working Forward was established by the Equality and Human Rights Commission. The initiative comes after a number of reports suggest a ‘shocking’ number of women face maternity related discrimination. The commission’s own report found that 77 per cent of pregnant women experience discrimination.

Further to this, in May this year Citizens Advice released figures showing there had been a 25 per cent increase in people looking for advice on pregnancy and maternity discrimination. In the last couple of weeks, the Women and Equalities Committee called for more protections for pregnant women after its’ report found 54,000 expectant or new mothers were forced to leave their jobs due to discrimination.

The founding members include Barclays, BT Group, Royal Mail, Ford, John Lewis Partnership, Mitie, Nationwide Building Society, and Transport for London.


“As one of the UK’s largest employers and one that prides itself on being a great place to work, we are hugely supportive of this campaign.”

Marc Allera, Chief Executive of EE from the BT Group


Amongst the members, a number already have schemes in place to help pregnant employees and new mothers transition through their careers. BT Group has a high return rate of women after maternity leave of 86 per cent compared with the national average of 77 per cent.

Royal Mail has conducted a number of initiatives to ensure all women, including pregnant women and new mothers, have access to relevant opportunities to build their careers and feel valued. This includes a regular survey of current and previous employees who have taken maternity leave in the last five years to understand and learn from their experiences; and the establishment of a new Parents and Carers Steering Group.

Barclays supports its’ employees through a peer-to-peer coaching programme offering career advice to women going on and returning from maternity leave or adoption leave.


“We believe there is a great value in a large business being able to step up and share best practice as this encourages the industry as a whole to improve. At Barclays, we’ve found that training and communication have had the most positive impact for colleagues, underpinned by policy and infrastructure.”

Mark McLane, Global Head of Diversity and Inclusion at Barclays


Speaking about the creation the initiative, David Isaac, chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said, “We can no longer accept women being unfairly treated at work because they are pregnant or on maternity leave.”

“We are calling on employers to sign up to our initiative to commit to delivering equality and ensure working environments benefit everyone.”

“Companies that show a real commitment to this are not only doing the right thing, but can also gain a competitive edge.”

“Our Working Forward founding members all recognise the importance of women in their workforces. Together, we want to raise the bar across the business community and ultimately improve the experiences of employers and employees.”


“Royal Mail is proud to be one of the founding members of Working Forward. Women are a crucial part of our workforce and this diversity is hugely important to us. As such we have made gender equality part of our business strategy.”

Jon Millidge, Director of Group HR at Royal Mail


Business Minister, Margot James said, “I’m extremely encouraged that some of the UK’s largest businesses have committed to the EHRC’s new ‘Working Forward’ campaign and I urge other employers, large and small, to add their support.”

“As the Prime Minister has made clear, we are working to build an economy that works for all and ensuring workplaces are free from discrimination is vital to achieving that goal.”

About the author

Alison is the Digital Content Editor for WeAreTheCity. She has a BA Honours degree in Journalism and History from the University of Portsmouth. She has previously worked in the marketing sector and in a copywriting role. Alison’s other passions and hobbies include writing, blogging and travelling.

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