15 March 2013
New mothers are often refused flexible working conditions and part-time hours, a survey has shown, revealing the inequality women face at a time when the Children and Families Bill threatens to present further difficulties to parents and the review of the Public Sector Equality Duty risks removing some protections against discrimination in the public sector and workers outsourced for public sector projects.
The survey, commissioned by employment lawyers Slater & Gordon, revealed that 40% of new mothers return to work to find their job has been changed, and nearly half of these women say they have changed for the worse, with some facing demotion.
Of those 40% who reported their roles had been changed, 26% said they were refused flexible working conditions and almost 20% reported that they were not allowed to switch to part-time hours.
Currently, workers only have the right to request flexible working – not to receive it – and employers can refuse their request for a vast array of legally supported reasons. The Children and Families Bill states that employers will be able to reject these requests having given “reasonable” consideration to the wishes of their workers, although this term is yet to be defined.
Furthermore, the shared parental leave proposals within the Bill threaten to undermine the flexibility that parents need after the birth of a child. To share parental leave with their partners, women need to request time off in weekly blocks, rather than both parents working part-time hours so they share daily childcare.
Additionally, employers are being offered the right to demand that all shared parental leave is taken in one single block, and it is likely considering the cost of covering maternal leave that this is what many employers will opt for.
The poll by Slater & Gordon reveals that it is already extremely difficult for women to continue their careers following the birth of a child, due to discrimination by regressive employers.
One in seven new mothers reported that they lost their job after having a baby, 11% were replaced by the person who covered their maternity leave, and almost 20% said their finances suffered as a result of taking time off to give birth and care for their child.
The financial problems facing new parents threaten to continue under the new proposals of the Children and Families Bill, as men choosing to share parental leave with mothers will receive less than minimum wage to do so.
The Institute of Employment Rights will be responding to the government’s consultation on the Bill next month.
It has also been announced that the Public Sector Equality Duty – which aims to protect vulnerable groups from discrimination by the state – will be reviewed.
At the TUC Women’s Conference this week, Unison’s Moira Owen called on unions to defend the duty, according to the Morning Star.
National LGBT Officer at Unison Carola Towle has written a more-indepth blog here on the issues with reviewing the Public Sector Duty.
Click here to purchase and read more about our most popular equalities book – a critique on the Equality Act 2010 by Aileen McColgan.