1 In 8 Employers Still Hesitate Over Hiring Women They Think Might Get Pregnant

That's despite the 2010 Equality Act making pregnancy discrimination illegal in the UK.

One in eight employers say they would be reluctant to hire a woman who they thought might go on to have children, a new YouGov survey for Young Women’s Trust has found.

The survey asked 802 employers and senior HR decision-makers across the UK about their hiring of young females and found 12% were still unsure about taking on an employee who might get pregnant in the future.

This is despite the Equality Act 2010 making this kind of discrimination illegal in the workplace.

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Reservations were expressed by more male than female HR professionals (14%) but some female employers (10%) did share the view. Joe Levenson from The Young Women’s Trust called these people “dinosaur bosses”.

Not only is this impacting women’s ability to be employed in the first place but it also impacting their progression, findings suggest: 14% of those surveyed said the organisation they are currently working for takes into account whether a woman is pregnant or already has children during decisions about promotion.

This is also against the law and is known as pregnancy discrimination.

According to the Citizen’s Advice Bureau, pregnancy or maternity discrimination is when you’re treated unfairly because you’re pregnant, breastfeeding or have recently given birth. The law covers those who have been ‘treated unfavourably’. which includes not being given promotions.

Despite the scale of the problem, attitudes among male employers have improved since the survey was last conducted – in 2018 it was 16% who say they might refuse to hire in this context – and 18% in 2017.

Reluctance among female employers has remained at a constant 10%.

Some small businesses defend such decision making as financial necessity – given the cost of shouldering pay and cover during a woman’s maternity leave.

A 2018 study by the Equality and Human Rights Commission found 41% of employers said pregnancy in the workplace put an ‘unnecessary cost burden’ on them.

But this isn’t an issue affecting only the smallest of businesses – the same EHRC study found as many as 54,000 mothers a year are either dismissed, made redundant or treated so poorly they have to leave their job.

It also found a third (36%) of private sector employers agree it is reasonable to ask women about their plans to have children in the future during recruitment and 59% agree a woman should have to disclose whether she is pregnant during the process. Meanwhile, 44% of employers agree that women should work for an organisation for at least a year before deciding to have children.

Young Women’s Trust is a charity that supports and represents women in England and Wales aged 18-30 trapped by low or no pay and facing a life of poverty.