Half Of NI Women Believe Pregnancy Affects Career Negatively

Half of the women in Northern Ireland believe their career opportunities have been negatively affected by their pregnancy or maternity leave, according to an investigation by the Equality Commission.

This is one of the findings of the women surveyed for 'Expecting Equality: a Formal Investigation under the Sex Discrimination (Northern Ireland) Order 1976', which the Commission is presenting at a conference in the Titanic Building in Belfast today, 29 November.

Dr Evelyn Collins CBE, Chief Executive of the Equality Commission, said: "Over one third of the women who talked to the Commission about their experiences said that they had been treated unfairly or disadvantaged because of their pregnancy or because they took maternity leave. They believe this affected their finances, their career opportunities, their status at work and their health. This is not acceptable, forty years after the introduction of legislation in Northern Ireland to provide protection from sex discrimination in employment."
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The type of unfair treatment reported varied, including termination of employment, having their role changed against their wishes, and losing out on salary increases or bonus payments in comparison to their colleagues.

"That said, it is encouraging that almost half the women who responded to this investigation thought their employer had been supportive during their pregnancy, and on their return to work, and we know that there are many employers who want to do their best for their employees, who follow good practice, and have effective policies in place for pregnant members of staff.

"The conference will hear from employers about what has worked for their organisations and the practical support for pregnant women and mothers in their workplaces."

Of the employers surveyed in the investigation, the majority said that they provide support for pregnant employees and new mothers. They referred to policies and practices they had in place including flexible working arrangements, childcare vouchers and return to work incentives such as phased return and bonus payments.

Some employers also identified challenges associated with managing pregnancy, maternity leave and return to work. Difficulties in providing for staff absences were a concern to small businesses in particular.


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