1 In 61 Pregnant Women Say Their Boss Insinuated They Should Have An Abortion

Pregnant Then Screwed found that 52% of mothers have faced some form of discrimination when pregnant, on maternity leave, or when they returned to work.
Pregnant woman and her manager check a report on a tablet.
AzmanL via Getty Images
Pregnant woman and her manager check a report on a tablet.

Shocking new research from the campaign group Pregnant Then Screwed has revealed that 1 in every 61 pregnant workers says their boss has insinuated they should terminate their pregnancy for the sake of their career.

Pregnant Then Screwed, who campaign for the rights of parents and against sex discrimination, surveyed over 24,000 parents to uncover the discrimination that women face in the workplace when they become mothers.

The data shows that over half of all mothers (52%) have faced some form of discrimination when pregnant, on maternity leave, or when they returned to work.

One woman involved in the study, Connie*, told her boss about her pregnancy at eight weeks and was told, “It would be easier for your future career if you just brought a coat hanger”. Three colleagues went on to tell Connie that she had ruined her career and should have had an abortion.

For some women, the consequences of having children can have life-changing consequences on their career, with one in five mothers (19%) making the decision to leave their employer due to a negative experience.

Additionally, one in 10 women (10%) revealed they were bullied or harassed when pregnant or returning to work, and 7% of women lost their job — through redundancy, sacking, or feeling forced to leave due to a flexible working request being declined or due to health and safety issues.

If scaled up, this could mean as many as 41,752 pregnant women or mothers are sacked or made redundant every year.

“These stats show how far we have to go before mothers are truly accepted as equal members of the workplace,” says Joeli Brearley, CEO and founder of Pregnant Then Screwed.

“We know that women are treated differently from the point they get pregnant. They are viewed as distracted and less committed to their work, despite there being no change to their performance. This bias plays out in numerous ways, affecting women’s earnings and career potential. There is absolutely no excuse for bosses, who hold the power, to tell their employees to abort a pregnancy. It is sex discrimination and it is inhumane.”

Portrait of a stressed woman tries to work from home with baby in arms
Abraham Gonzalez Fernandez via Getty Images
Portrait of a stressed woman tries to work from home with baby in arms

The discrimination that women face doesn’t always come from their boss; in fact, 73% of women shared that a colleague made hurtful comments about their pregnancy or maternity leave, and 74% of women said that a colleague insinuated that their performance had dipped due to pregnancy or maternity leave. Some women even experience criticism based on the way they look when they are pregnant - with 64% saying their boss or a colleague had made inappropriate comments about their looks.

“The fact that the majority of pregnant women have experienced inappropriate and degrading comments from a colleague or their boss about the way they look is shameful,” says Brearley.

“Why as a society do we accept women being a target for such abuse? These hurtful comments chip away at women’s confidence, ambition and feeling of belonging,” she says.

“Pregnant women are made to feel like an unsightly burden, no wonder a high proportion of women report feeling depressed or anxious when pregnant and one in five women leave their employer after becoming pregnant.’’

The study’s data and the shocking stories shared by pregnant women in workplaces around the UK highlight the worrying and pervasive attitudes towards women in society — even in a supposedly equal one like the UK.

It isn’t just about having children; women are being treated differently for decisions relating to their reproductive health, too. An especially worrying trend in our post-Roe v Wade world, which is seeing our rights rolled back across the globe.

For instance, a third of women (31.58%) who told their employer about having an abortion felt that they experienced discrimination or were unfairly treated as a result. And the majority of women (57.6%) didn’t even tell their employer they had an abortion, presumably for fear of being judged negatively.

Women being bullied out of the workplace for being pregnant, or choosing not to be, is just one more example of the ways women’s freedoms are being infringed upon, and shows that, in the end, the patriarchy doesn’t want us to win.

It’s something we should all vehemently stand against, together.

If you or anyone you know has experienced discrimination in the workplace, please call the Pregnant Then Screwed helpline on Tel: 0161 2229879

*Name changed to protect anonymity