of awareness among retail sector employers could be putting the health and
well-being of pregnant women and unborn babies at risk, according to a new
poll by the Usdaw union
found that 62 per cent of women reported a negative change in the attitude of
their employer towards them during pregnancy. A quarter of respondents told Usdaw they were ignored and made
to feel marginalised.
Hannett, Usdaw general secretary, said
many women told the union they felt undervalued, ignored, humiliated, and even
made to feel guilty about being pregnant.
who asked for help were told to stop complaining, repeated requests for
maternity uniforms fell on deaf ears, and women were excluded from decisions on
the basis that they were pregnant," he said.
findings of the survey included:
Many retail employers are unaware of what constitutes "suitable
alternative work". A common response is to assign a pregnant worker to
checkout duties. Research shows that the average combined weight of all goods
lifted by a checkout operator during a four-hour shift is more than one tonne.
More than 22 per cent of respondents did not get paid time off for ante-natal
appointments, and more than one in 10 women were told to work the time back.
More than 70 per cent said they either did not get a risk assessment, or didn’t
know whether they had. By law, all employers must conduct an individual risk
assessment for pregnant workers.
40 per cent of pregnant women told Usdaw
their employer either did nothing or made an unhelpful suggestion when they
told them they were experiencing difficulties with certain aspects of their job
because of pregnancy.
A quarter of pregnant shopworkers
were not even given a suitable uniform to wear. One woman requested a company
maternity uniform at week 13 – which arrived after she gave birth. Many women
said they were forced to adapt uniforms (using elastic bands and zips to expand
the waistline of trousers and skirts), or borrow bigger shirts from colleagues.
In one instance, there was only one "pregnancy uniform" in a store,
which was passed around from one pregnant worker to another.