[R-G] Pregnant women risk job discrimination
sandinista at shaw.ca
Thu Mar 4 00:03:42 MST 2004
Pregnant women risk job discrimination
John Carvel, social affairs editor
Friday February 27, 2004
More than 1,000 women a year take legal action claiming they have been
sacked for being pregnant, the Equal Opportunities Commission said yesterday
in an analysis of discrimination in England and Wales.
The first national investigation concluded that victimisation was rife. It
led to depression among women and unnecessary loss of skills for their
Even the system designed to give redress was itself discriminatory. Average
compensation awarded to women for injury to feelings after dismissal for
being pregnant was £2,000 lower than for dismissals for other reasons.
The time limit for making a claim of pregnancy discrimination was three
months, obliging women to lodge their complaint during the later stages of
pregnancy or soon after birth when they were least likely to want
Julie Mellor, the commission's chairwoman, said tribunal cases were the tip
of the iceberg. Its helpline received more calls from women on problems
related to pregnancy at work than any other subject.
It reported that many companies saw an employee's pregnancy as a warning of
difficulties in future. One woman told the commission: "My employer told me
that getting pregnant is disgusting and that I'm obviously not
Another said: "I work for an organisation that seems to believe having a day
off for a hangover is pretty macho, but having a day off for morning
sickness is a pain in the neck. I call the place Jurassic Park."
A third said: "I'm being picked on persistently. My immediate line manager
has suggested that I'm screwing the company and that I used a table in the
meeting room to lie down on if I was tired."
Ms Mellor said: "With the average cost of replacing one member of staff
amounting to £4,000, the economy and individual employers themselves simply
cannot afford to lose valuable, skilled staff just because they are
The research showed the usual pattern was for women to be dismissed before
going on maternity leave, sometimes within hours or days of informing the
employer they were pregnant.
The commission says just over 3% of women aged 16 to 49 are pregnant at any
one time and just over half are employees. This suggests about 250,000
employees are pregnant at any one time.
Maternity leave entitlement is higher in Britain than in most EU countries,
but maternity pay is among the lowest.
"The obstacles are ideological rather than political. It is the expression
of patriarchal thought that permeates everything, that makes for a one-sided
vision of society ... Not only is there tremendous ignorance of a feminist
agenda, but when it is addressed it is addressed paternalistically,
condescendingly, in welfare terms. We are lacking in
profound and serious reflection on the subject." -Sofia Montenegro,
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