One in four companies would prefer to break the law than risk hiring a pregnant woman or a woman that is likely to get pregnant, according to research by the Recruitment Employment Confederation (REC).
Three-quarters of the 100 recruitment agencies that were questioned said companies had explicitly told them to avoid employing pregnant women or women of a child-bearing age.
“We weren’t surprised by our findings. Having children or wanting children is seen as an obstacle to career progression. We’ve been advising our members not to deal with companies that have a discriminatory approach towards women. It’s illegal,” said Tom Hadley, director of external affairs at the REC.
Hadley said that this negative attitude was more prevalent in small businesses which would not necessarily have the resources to provide maternity cover.
“Rightly or wrongly, they’d rather not take the risk and will hire a bloke in his 20s,” he added.
It is 30 years since the Sex Discrimination Act, which made it illegal to sack a woman because she is pregnant, was first introduced.