ACAS have written an interesting article today concerning discrimination women face both during pregnancy and after childbirth. The article highlights the results of a survey carried out by another employment law firm which showed that 51% of the 2000 women surveyed felt that attitudes towards them changed when they became pregnant and 66% felt that since they returned from maternity leave things had been difficult for them. Further, 30% felt that being a mum was seen as inconvenient and had played a part in missed promotions. You can read the full article here with more details of the results given.
Whilst only 2000 mums took part in the survey it would be interesting to see the demographics of those participants and whether discrimination is more rife in some sectors such as the legal sector or professional services. Given these figures and the ability to bring a sex discrimination claim against their employer since the 70’s when the sex discrimination legislation was enacted it is perhaps interesting that such cases do not rank higher in the Tribunal statistics.
Why might it be that women are not bringing claims? Well the answer in an ideal world would be that they have raised their concerns with the employer perhaps through a formal grievance process or even an informal process and there has been a misunderstanding which is then rectified. Possible but unlikely in the majority of cases. Another explanation could be that people do not know they have rights, again in this day and age possible but unlikely. I think it is more likely that they consider that any complaint would mark their card in some way or put pay to their career. Whilst of course there is legislation to prevent victimisation it is establishing the case or having to take yet another course of action.
It is unlikely that the Tribunal fees will be having any impact since this will take some time to filter through. Could it be that people just don’t want to make a fuss. One possible answer could lie in the limitation period. Imagine for a minute an employee is discriminated against during her pregnancy and then goes off on maternity leave. There are no further acts of discrimination and the window of bringing a claim falls during the very period when she is giving birth and the mad period of motherhood immediately after until a routine is settled in. Bringing action at that very time is probably the last thing on her mind. Unless one can establish that it is the last in a series of acts the clock is ticking.
Any other ideas what the explanation for the divergence in the stats of the survey and the number of sex discrimination Tribunal claims.