Prejudice and discrimination against pregnant women is rife despite government measures to improve the number of parents returning to the workforce.
An Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) study has revealed that 30,000 women are sacked, made redundant or leave their jobs every year, because they face discrimination from bosses for being pregnant.
The findings of the two-month study show that almost half of expectant women in the workplace experienced some form of discrimination as a direct result of their pregnancy.
A further 21% felt they had lost out financially, and one in 20 respondents faced pressure to hand in their notice after announcing they were pregnant.
According to the study, pregnant women suffer many forms of discrimination, which include being denied promotions, changes to job descriptions and a lack of training.
EOC chairwoman, Julie Mellor, said some employers were confused about dealing with pregnancy in the workplace, but that others were knowingly flouting the law.
“Our findings make for shocking reading. Women should not be penalised simply for being pregnant,” she said. “We need urgent action from the government to provide more information and support for employers and pregnant employees.”
The EOC is calling on the government to give every pregnant woman a statement of their maternity rights and to allow employers to ask staff on maternity leave to indicate when they are planning to return to work much earlier.