London, March 10: At least one in seven women in Britain face illegal discrimination at work when they get pregnant, and lose their jobs while they are on maternity leave, a study has found.
Around 40 percent of the women surveyed said their jobs had changed by the time they returned, with half reporting a cut in hours or demotion, the Guardian said.
More than a tenth had been replaced in their jobs by the person who had covered their maternity leave, according to Slater and Gordon, the law firm which commissioned the research.
Samantha Mangwana, an employment lawyer at the law firm, said the results were “sad and shocking”.
“Women are suffering in silence,” she said.
“A common case is that a woman goes back to her role and all her clients have been given to other people. And they are not returned. So everything she has built up over the years is gone. Or they are simply being made redundant ahead of worse-performing men.”
“Women are somehow seen as being less committed to their employers because they are now mothers,” she said.
Research company OnePoll questioned 1,000 women.
On returning to their jobs, almost a third of the new mothers (30 percent) felt they did not fit in any more, and two in five felt they lacked support.
Almost 20 percent felt that no one understood what it was like juggling work with new motherhood.
However, only three percent sought legal advice over maternity discrimination.
In Britain, it is unlawful to dismiss or otherwise disadvantage an employee for a reason related to her pregnancy or maternity leave.
Before the global recession, the Equal Opportunities Commission estimated that 30,000 women lost their jobs each year as a result of being pregnant.