Finance sector showing pregnant women the door

2004

More than a quarter of HR professionals in the finance sector admit that their employers have given a pregnant employee a package to end her employment during the past three years.

This latest evidence of the finance sector's hostility towards women comes from a survey of 1,200 readers of Personnel Today magazine carried out with the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC).

The survey found that across all sectors, almost one in 10 HR professionals said that their firms had ended the employment of a pregnant employee in the past three years.

The survey also found that almost one in 20 respondents said that an employee had brought a pregnancy or maternity-related tribunal claim against their organisation in the last three years.

In the retail sector this proportion rose to one in 10 and in finance to one in seven.

According to those surveyed, the issues having the biggest negative impact on the way employers manage pregnancy at work are the complexity of the laws relating to pregnancy and maternity, line managers’ lack of knowledge about maternity rights, and a lack of senior management commitment to offering flexible working.

The EOC found earlier this year that more than a quarter of employers cannot cite a single statutory entitlement for pregnant women and that more than a third feel that pregnancy is "an undue cost burden on the organisation".

The Personnel Today findings also come less than a month after a nationwide survey of finance professionals by recruitment company Robert Half and Accountancy Age magazine revealed that a third believed the finance sector discriminates against working mothers.

Almost half of the respondents to this survey said that their firm had no formal policy on flexible working and a third of did not believe their workplace was family friendly.

Meanwhile last September, 84 per cent of HR professionals quizzed by consultants Croner said that firms are reluctant to employ women because of the maternity implications.

Other EOC research has suggested that one in five women who are pregnant while in employment are dismissed or suffer other financial loss as the result of a pregnancy.

Personnel Today also asked what initiatives would help them HR professionals most when managing pregnancy in the workplace. The answers that emerged were a single piece of legislation dealing with pregnancy and maternity, a code of practice for employers covering all legal rights and responsibilities and a toolkit to help employers manage pregnancy.

"This survey gives us a good indication of what’s currently going wrong - and what could be done to make pregnancy at work a more positive experience for employers and their employees," said Julie Mellor, Chair of the EOC

"It’s clear that employers want more help in managing pregnancy, especially when it comes to understanding and implementing the law. Many understand that there are real business benefits to be gained from handling pregnancy well, such as better retention rates and increased productivity.

"The EOC will be taking these views seriously as we put together our final report and recommendations from our investigation into pregnancy discrimination at work."