More than four-fifths of UK HR professionals say their bosses automatically think twice before employing a woman of ‘childbearing age’, according to a new survey.
The online poll of 110 HR professionals by Croner consulting, reinforces the results of an Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) report which found that employers are discriminating against pregnant employees, and shows that discrimination may even start before a woman becomes pregnant.
Almost half (45 per cent) of the 441,000 women surveyed by the EOC who had worked while pregnant said they experienced some form of discrimination because of their pregnancy.
The latest government statistics show there are nearly 10 million working women of childbearing age (16-49) in the UK workforce, with 3.5 million aged 25-34 – the most common age range for starting a family.
Richard Smith, HR expert at Croner, said: “It is unlawful sex discrimination to refuse to interview or employ a woman because she is, or is suspected to be, pregnant. This also applies to women of childbearing age, since this is not something related to the ability to do the job.
“Employers should steer clear during an interview of asking when a woman plans to start a family. This has nothing to do with her role as an employee and could be used as tribunal evidence for sex discrimination.
“Some employers, especially in smaller companies, may think they have a business case for not employing younger women, as they may find it difficult to recruit maternity cover or accommodate flexible working requests, should an employee become pregnant,” he said.
“But the law is very clear. It is unlawful sex discrimination to take into consideration factors relating to gender when recruiting staff.”