Almost half of HR Execs admit to observing pregnant women & returning mums not being treated well

In research that should see UK workplaces hang their heads in shame, campaign group Pregnant Then Screwed teamed up with HR Magazine to conduct a survey looking at how pregnant and returning mums are treated in the workplace.  The results don’t make pleasant reading; 44% of HR Magazine’s readers admitted they’ve observed pregnant women and returning mums not being treated well.

The research comes as Pregnant Then Screwed launches its new company training arm, Gendering Change. Building on its years of frontline campaign work, Pregnant Then Screwed have designed workshops that will help employers retain, enhance and support parents in the workplace.

All profit generated from the Gendering Change programme will help fund the range of Pregnant Then Screwed support services for women who experience discrimination alongside the group’s campaign work to create long-term systemic change.

Joeli Brearley, founder of Pregnant Then Screwed, explains:

“We know that employers want to do more to support working parents. Gendering Change uses our specialist first-hand knowledge as a campaign group to support employers in achieving this. Not only will our workshops help to make a difference to the lives of their own employees, but because Gendering Change funds our support services, these companies are also helping to support other parents outside of their organisation.”

The full results from the research of some 169 of HR Magazine’s readers, who are CEO’s, directors, HR managers and executives, reveals:

  • 44% admit they find flexibility requests challenging and struggle to meet them
  • 29% admit they don’t know what the right conversations are to have with mums before and after maternity leave
  • 18% admit they have seen mums pushed out of their jobs by management
  • 1 in 10 know at least one returning mum who has signed an NDA followinga pay-off to leave the company

Alison Hay, Delivery Manager at Gendering Change, said:

“Gendering Change workshops and courses will help companies overcome implicit bias, support employers that want to implement or expand flexible working and job shares, and reinforce the business reasons for doing so. We will also help companies develop skills and practical tools to support parents returning to work after a period of leave, and ensure organisations understand their legal obligations towards pregnant women and parents. Our workshops are inspired by the knowledge we have gathered through our work withpregnant women, new mums and companies across the UK, and are delivered by experts in the field’

Jenny Roper, editor of HR magazine, added:

“So many employers still perceive maternity and paternity leave as an inconvenience to their business. We know that if we switch that mindset there is a real opportunity for business in terms of retaining talent. At HR magazine, we often hear of instances where employees – even HR professionals themselves – are discriminated against for having children, not just by one organisation but, shockingly, by consecutive employers.

“Perhaps particularly worrying is the finding that 29% of respondents admit that they don’t know what the right conversations are to have. There is a huge opportunity here for HR to upskill in this area. Given the ongoing war for talent, and growing Brexit-related skills shortages, being a truly family-friendly employer is a real opportunity to access untapped pools of loyal, talented workers.

“Offering flexibility to new mums, and keeping them in the loop while they’re on leave for example, are crucial steps. But maternity discrimination and the stigma directed at fathers for taking parental leave are two sides of the same coin. We must reduce the stigma of having families and making time for family and personal lives for all – a win-win for employees, employers and HR.”

Following a trial of Gendering Change workshops for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Jenna Hepworth, HR Business Partner for Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, comments:

“Working with the Gendering Change team has really helped break down barriers and conversations with leaders in our organisation on supporting parents in the workplace and new mothers returning to work. 

“As an employer that already offers great flexible working, Gendering Change… worked with us to really understand how we could use their services and tailor it to our audience, focusing on parents [who are] on that journey and women returning to work.

 “The session [which] ran to 40 of our leaders was different, down to earth and told it like it was! It helped bring up subjects and challenge assumptions on parents and particularly mothers returning to work that hasn’t been discussed before in a forum that was relaxed and open! 

 “One comment from a front-line manager was that in 40 years of working in a mainly male-dominated, manual area he’d never had conversations like this before!”

Employment Lawyer and Senior Employment Law Lecturer Ian Winrow welcomed the new workshops, describing the research findings as ‘shameful’:

“In my 15 years working for the Citizens Advice Bureau, I saw the scale of maternity discrimination first hand – and it’s shocking.  Pregnant women and new Mums are at their most vulnerable, discrimination at work shatters their confidence and leaves them feeling hurt, angry and disempowered.  Even when we secure justice for them through the tribunal system, it’s often after months of pain and sadness – it’s illegal, shameful and completely avoidable.  Pregnant then Screwed do excellent work and I’m delighted to see them launch this new service.”

Joeli Brearley concludes :

“The results of our survey with HR Magazine are shocking and demonstrate the need for more support for mothers and parents in the workplace. Many employers understand that looking after parents in the workplace makes good business sense but they struggle with implementation and culture change. This is why we have launched Gendering Change. 

“This year we saw the gender pay gap widen at half of the UKs biggest companies. A key cause of the gender pay gap is motherhood. Studies have shown that a third of employers avoid hiring women of childbearing age, and a fifth of employers will not promote women with children. One in nine women are pushed out of their job due to pregnancy or maternity, and 77% of working mums say they have encountered discrimination in the workplace. Implicit bias, ineffective systems and a lack of understanding around the needs of working parents, result in an unproductive workforce.


To find out more about Gendering Change please check out or contact [email protected] for more information.