It’s long been known, perhaps even with a complacent acceptance, that men make more money in the workforce, while controlling for all other factors. While that’s hardly fair, what seems implausible in the year 2015 is something even more widespread: harassment, discrimination, demotion, maltreatment, and firing due to simply having a baby, a protected right in most industrialized countries, such as the U.K., where this particular program takes place. That doesn’t mean its American counterpart isn’t facing the same thing. In fact, it may be worse: women don’t even get paid time off for maternity leave and the most leave they can take is 12 weeks under FMLA and still retain their same job status when they return from maternity leave.
The site’s founder, Joeli Brearley, 36, experienced discrimination when she was pregnant and was stunned by how many similar stories she heard when she spoke to other mothers at a local mother’s group. She appeared on the Victoria Derbyshire program to discuss the program, site, and legal help for mothers — along with helping to identify insidious forms of workplace discrimination before and after pregnancy. She says women have come forward to say their bosses have, at times, come right out and said “No workers with children under five” or “You have other obligations; this job needs total commitment,” among other shocking stories.
“The problem is women are too scared to speak out for fear of being branded a troublemaker. Or if they still work for the company they are terrified of losing their jobs, particularly now that they are responsible for a child. You also only have three months to take a case of discrimination to an employment tribunal, and this tends to come at a time when you are weak, exhausted and frankly, this just isn’t your priority. It all gets brushed under the carpet.”
Bearley says there are studies that estimate that 60,000 women experience pregnancy discrimination in the U.K. — and countless more in other countries. The U.K. has considerably more protective laws than the United States, which sadly does not even have clear breast-pumping laws at work for mothers in all states.
Of course, unless your boss comes right out and tells you you’re demoted, fired, or asks you illegal questions in an email due to your pregnancy, it’s difficult to prove pregnancy discrimination — companies can simply say they are down-sizing, unsatisfied with your work (when you previously got glowing annual reports), or they can make it such a difficult and toxic environment that you feel forced to leave.
Since women make up more than 50 percent of the workforce, this is a startling revelation. Have you been discriminated against for pregnancy in the workplace?
[Photo credit to ABC]