Having children bad for career?

by |

Nearly three-quarters of working mothers say taking maternity leave had a negative effect on their careers. HR needs to change that figure for the benefit of their organization’s future.

According to a new study by UK recruitment firm maternitycover.com, ‘Boardrooms and Babies’, seven in ten women are worried about redundancy and feel their job is more vulnerable if they take statutory maternity leave after giving birth.

Also, a third of women said they thought they had been passed over for a promotion because they were of child-bearing age. No wonder half the women surveyed said they would consider hiding their pregnancy from their boss if they were offered a new job or promotion.

Half of women return to work without taking their full maternity leave entitlement because of money worries.

While three quarters of women said that attitudes towards them had changed when they returned to work after giving birth, 73% felt they were better employees as a result of having a baby, as it has made them more focused and organised.

 “It is against the law to treat women unfairly because they are pregnant or while they are on maternity leave,” Kiran Daurka, employment specialist at law firm Slater and Gordon, told online forum, Netmums. “It’s a depressing state of affairs that as employment lawyers we still hear from plenty of women with children who have faced discrimination, despite the fact that it’s simply bad for business.”

Human rights organizations across Canada have seen pregnancy related complaints increase, partly because women are more aware of their rights. Employers need to be aware that making employment decisions or changes based on pregnancy is illegal, and falls under the protected trait of gender.

“More women are becoming more aware of their rights and the opportunity to seek assistance,” chairman of New Brunswick's Human Rights Commission, Randy Dickinson says. “I think also, to be fair, there are a lot of employers that we get involved with that they just didn't know their obligations and once it was brought to their attention, they quickly rectified the situation.”

A software company in British Columbia had to pay out more than $11,000 after firing a woman the day after learning she was pregnant. BNA Smart Payment Systems claimed they were shutting their west coast operations and the termination was unrelated to the pregnancy, but the Human Rights Tribunal found the claimant’s pregnancy was a contributing factor to her being dismissed at that time.

Employer obligations: 

  • Pregnancy discrimination is considered part of sex discrimination and is not allowed to affect hiring decisions, promotions and pay rises, or termination.
  • Even if a worker has not been employed for a full year, they are entitled to maternity leave. This ranges from 15 weeks in Alberta to 18 weeks in Quebec and Saskatchewan.
  • Both new parents are entitled to up to 37 weeks of parental leave. This can be unpaid, but their position must remain available to them unless there are independent reasons for internal restructuring

Next week on HRM Online: Canadian employers discuss how and why they support working parents.

HRM Online forum is the place for positive industry interaction and welcomes your professional and informed opinion.

Name (required)
Comment (required)
By submitting, I agree to the Terms & Conditions