Overwhelming ignorance of legal obligations surrounding pregnancy-related issues is overshadowing employers’ generally positive attitude toward pregnant women, new research has revealed.
A widespread lack of awareness has even led some bosses to feel it is not worth training a pregnant employee if there is a chance she may not return to work, despite this being illegal.
More than a quarter of all employers were unable to identify one statutory legal right for pregnant workers, although this was more likely to be the case among smaller companies, all- male workforces or firms where there had not been a pregnancy in the past three years.
The preliminary results from an investigation by the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) found most employers rated the uncertainty over whether staff would return as the most problematic concern.
Other difficulties cited by business include workload increases for other staff during maternity cover, training new staff and planning cover.
Despite this, EOC deputy chair Jenny Watson said the poll of 450 organisations found most employers were supporting pregnant women at work.
“Many organisations do handle pregnancy positively and as a result see business benefits, such as better retention rates and increased productivity. Yet the results suggest significant numbers of employers have limited knowledge of the law, which may prevent them from managing pregnancy effectively,” she said.
The poor legal knowledge contrasts with employers’ good intentions, with 89 per cent saying pregnancy entitlements were totally or fairly reasonable.