I dont want to downplay the importance of maternity discrimination but I do have a serious problem with the 54,000 figure.
The people ‘forced’ out of the job in the survey consist of three groups. Those who have been made redundant when nobody else in the organisation was, those who have been dismissed and those who have been ‘treated so poorly that they they had no option but to leave’. Of the three groups, that last one was by far the biggest making up 9% of the survey with just 1% for the other two categories.
There are two problems with the question. First this is a survey only about the perceptions of the employees concerned. If just 10 per cent of those who said they had left were actually being unreasonable and had not been treated badly at all, what impact would that have on the 54,000 figure?
Secondly even if we accepted that 54,000 people are being dismissed or forced out each year, we can’t say that that is ‘because of’ discrimination without a group to compare it to. The survey did not even ask the women why they felt they had been dismissed or badly treated. How many people who have not had a baby are dismissed, made redundant (in a pool of one) or treated so poorly that they feel they have to leave? . Without that number we can’t tell what proportion of the 54,000 can be put down to maternity discrimination – but it will certainly be less than 100%.
I believe there are more figures coming out in the autumn with better data on causation. Maybe we’ll get a clearer picture then.