Maternity discrimination costs businesses £280 million a year

pregnant woman working at desk

Businesses across the UK are losing nearly £280 million each year through maternity discrimination, according to a new report.

The research, published by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, found that businesses that forced women out of their jobs over pregnancy and maternity discrimination, were losing a large amount of money.

The losses to business were largely due to recruitment and training costs, and lost productivity. These could be even higher when reputational risks, loss of valuable staff, employment tribunals and longer-term productivity impacts are also included.

Alongside a cost to businesses, the study also showed that the cost to British women could be as much as £113 million a year when they are forced to leave their job. This figure includes those who felt so poorly treated they had to leave and those who were dismissed or made compulsorily redundant. The findings also showed that women were most likely to be financially affected when they felt forced to leave their job at an early stage of their pregnancy, due to loss of earnings.

However, women who kept their jobs were also found to suffer financial losses of up to £34 million over the following year, due to pregnancy discrimination. This includes failing to gain a promotion, having their salary reduced, being demoted and receiving a lower pay rise or bonus than they would otherwise have secured.

David Isaac, Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission said, “Those who discriminate by forcing working mothers out are shooting themselves in the foot and incurring substantial costs.”

“Today’s research underlines that equality of opportunity for working mothers makes good business sense.”

“The best businesses know already that ending discrimination and unlocking the talent of women in the workplace makes them stronger and more successful.”

“We encourage all businesses to follow their lead by supporting working mothers and showing zero tolerance of discrimination.”

Business Minister, Margot James, said, “Not only is discrimination in the workplace illegal – it makes absolutely no business sense, with a significant cost to employers and a devastating impact on the careers of new mothers and pregnant women.”

“I’d like to thank the Equality and Human Rights Commission for helping to shine a light on this issue which is a key priority of mine.”

“Together we will raise awareness to prove all discrimination is both unacceptable and costly to employers.”

To help combat these statistics, the Commission is working with leading businesses in the UK who are spearheading a new coalition called Working Forward. The coalition aims to inspire and support other organisations by sharing their knowledge, experience and good practice, as well as highlighting the economic benefits they get from retaining the talent and experience of their female employees.

The Commission is also recommending a review into the access to justice for women who have experienced pregnancy or maternity discrimination. The government is called upon to extend the time limit for making an employment tribunal claim to 6 months for cases relating to pregnancy and maternity and that ensure that fees are not a barrier to women taking cases.

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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