As many as42% of working women in the UK are uneasy about their employer’s reaction when they tell them they are pregnant, according to a survey by OnePoll commissioned by QualitySolicitors.
Even more women are unclear about their maternity rights, with 78% of women not asking about their company’s maternity policy having accepted a job.
In addition to this, the survey found that concerns around broaching the subject of motherhood in the workplace mean that only half of all women in the UK ask about their maternity rights within the first year of employment in a company. This makes us question why companies don’t make their maternity and paternity policies more openly available.
In response to the findings, QualitySolicitors employment lawyers have written guides aimed at both employers and employees, setting out in clear, jargon-free language their respective rights and responsibilities around maternity and paternity leave.
The survey reveals that two thirds of working women in the UK would like for their employer to be more transparent about their maternity policy from the outset.
As Craig Holt, founder of QualitySolicitors explains, “In today’s economic climate, women are understandably concerned about job security. Despite strong legal regulation to assist the employer and employee, a culture of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ has been allowed to develop. Women are not asking about their rights, and employers are not always communicating clearly what these rights are and where they can find them.”
The results go some way to explain the national trend which has seen women waiting longer to start their families. The average age at which a woman in the UK starts a family has reached 31 years – an increase of almost two years since 1995 according to the Office of National Statistics.
UK women are now waiting longer than anywhere else in the world to have their first child.
Finally, even though 71% of those surveyed believe sharing maternity/paternity leave between parents is a good idea, 40% were unaware they could actually do this which shows that the Government’s initiative is not being sufficiently communicated to the public – while almost half (46%) of women think their employer could do more to support those on maternity and paternity leave.