A new survey by The Mummy MOT® reveals that over half of pregnant and working mothers feel discriminated against in the workplace.
The Mummy MOT®, a service which provides a specialist postnatal examination for women following birth, surveyed 1000 mums across the UK to find out their health concerns and needs as they make the transition back to work. Over half of pregnant women and mothers surveyed feel they are discriminated against when it comes to climbing the career ladder and pay rises.
Mothers with young children are now more likely to go back to or begin full-time work now that 20 years ago. More flexible working practices and changes to government policy on the availability of childcare are a move in the right direction but a third of the women surveyed feel more needs to be done.
Physical & Financial Issues
Statistics show 84% of women become pregnant during their lifetimes meaning women are likely to fall pregnant at pivotal times in their career. On top of the financial implications of having a baby, women have a heady mix of psychological and physical issues to deal with too. As well as postnatal depression and anxiety, many women suffer complex physical issues, including back pain, urinary incontinence, symphysis pubis dysfunction, and diastasis recti. A fifth of working mothers surveyed have health issues since having a baby but are not comfortable discussing them with their employer.
Maria Elliott, physiotherapist and founder of The Mummy MOT® says that most women don't want to discuss postnatal issues with their employer and even avoid going back to work. It's for these reasons that she wants women to have their issues fixed by the time they return to work.
50% of women suffer post birth
Up to half of all women experience weakness in both the abdominal muscles and pelvic floor muscles after pregnancy and up to a third still have a gap in their tummy at eight weeks post- birth which can cause instability or poor core strength leading to women developing pelvic pain or bladder, bowel, and sexual dysfunction. She adds: "Standing jobs can make a prolapse much worse while pelvic girdle pain is aggravated by sedentary jobs."
It's disturbing given how much working mothers contribute to the labour market that women are victim to their own physiology.
More than half of women treated differently on returning to work
The survey revealed that 60% of women feel that they are being treated differently since becoming pregnant or returning to work and in some cases are pushed out of their jobs.
A government report highlighted that companies are forcing working mums to sign NDA's to cover up discrimination against them. Maternity Action's Scarlett Harris says: "Three in four mothers (77%) experience some form of maternity or pregnancy discrimination each year yet many of those women will never be able to speak out about their experiences because they've signed an NDA as part of their settlement agreement."
One respondent said: "Four weeks after giving birth I had to return back to work as my employer was very strict and threatened to give my position to someone else."
Returning to work is not an option for some mums. A fifth of respondents cited childcare costs as a reason for becoming a stay at home mum. Conversely, 44% of women returned to work for financial reasons. Respondents felt that maternity leave was "an inconvenience" with one hitting the nail on the head: "Those who reproduce are mostly those who cannot afford it."
No provisions for mothers
Other issues included being forced to travel, toilet access only at break times, no provision for breastfeeding mums, being "penalised" for child sickness and being refused part-time hours. Poor maternity pay can lead to anxiety and depression too.
The UK ranks in the bottom 10 of the worst countries for maternity leave offering just six weeks' parental leave at 90 percent pay and 33 weeks at a lower rate. On top of that, British parents pay some of the highest childcare rates in the world.
Women are taxed for having periods, bear the brunt of contraception side effects and then risk stagnating their career when they have a baby, MP Stella Creasy has spoken out in parliament about the difficulties pregnant women face and having to choose to be an MP or mum because of parliament's rules over maternity leave.
Three-quarters of respondents saying they are more likely to stay loyal to a company that offers attractive benefits for mothers such as flexible and/or compressed hours and an option to work from home, while 45% would like better-paid maternity leave and 35% an on-site creche.
Marianne (32), from Belfast, works full-time from home as a communications manager. She says: "My employer is very supportive of my circumstances. Working and juggling home life can be difficult. To know that your company is supportive and respectful of your life outside of work is crucial to finding a balance between work and family life."
Pregnant The Screwed have launched petition Flex For All, one of their demands is the right for all workers to request flexible working at any stage during their employment.
Compassion, empathy, and resilience are some of the adjectives used by respondents to describe what women bring to the workforce. "Becoming a mother makes you a better and harder worker because you have the drive to do well and perform for your children."
Here's to the employers who champion these values that women – and mothers bring to the workplace. Coexist offers paid time off for severe period pain. Nike provides similar leave. Next Plc, First Direct and Goldman Sachs offer onsite creches. Vodafone offers new parents 16 weeks of fully paid maternity leave and a further six months of working a reduced 30-hour week on full pay. Let's hope more employers follow suit. Women who may become pregnant in their lifetime shouldn't be punished for that biological right. It's time all employers got that.
Highlights from the survey results.
- 30% of women fell into the 35-44 age bracket, while over half the women work full-time.
- 28% of women don't feel supported by their employer if they plan to extend their family.
- 75% of women would like to see employers offer flexible and/or compressed hours and an option to work from home.
- 42% of women do not feel their emotional and physical needs are being met by their employer since becoming a mother.
- 20% of working mothers say they have health issues since having a baby but are not comfortable discussing them with their employer.
- 16% of mothers say that postnatal health issues affect their performance at work.
- 40% of working mothers say their job has become more stressful since returning from maternity leave.
- 39% of women surveyed said that given the choice, they would prefer to be a working from home mum.
- 35% of women surveyed said their career has taken a new direction since becoming a mother.
Note to editors
- The Mummy MOT is a specialist postnatal examination for women following both vaginal and C-section deliveries.
- 1000 women across the UK responded to the survey.
- July is International Diastasis Recti Awareness Month.
- Visit MOT advice points in Mothercare and John Lewis.
- The survey was conducted by 3GEM Research & Insights in 2019.
For further information
The Mummy MOT Head of News, John Sewell – 07387 475837
Quotes available from Maria Elliott.