Potential disputes with female employees returning from maternity leave are costing businesses a fortune.
British businesses are losing hundreds of millions of pounds every year as a result of women being forced out of jobs after having a baby, a report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission has revealed.
The costs of hiring and training new staff, redundancy payouts and lost productivity after women were pushed out of jobs amounted to £280m a year.
About 11% of women are pushed out of their jobs following maternity leave – about 54,000 women a year – but only 1% of these lodge a complaint at an employment tribunal.
The cost to British women who were forced out of their jobs – either by being dismissed, treated so poorly they had to leave, or made compulsorily redundant – could be as much as £113m a year, according to the report.
In a report earlier this year, the EHRC found that over three-quarters of pregnant women and new mothers – the equivalent of 390,000 women – experience negative and potentially discriminatory treatment at work each year. The report suggested that pregnancy discrimination, which is illegal, has risen significantly since 2005, when 45% of women said they had experienced such discrimination.
Many women who kept their jobs still faced a financial loss costing up to £34m in total over the year after their return to work as a result of having pay reduced, missing out on promotions or receiving a lower pay rise or bonus.
The figures related to the first year after women returning to work faced discrimination, but the longer term costs – including to the state which were estimated at between £14m and £16.7m – were likely to be much greater.
The EHRC called on the government to extend the time limit for making an employment tribunal claim to six months for cases relating to pregnancy and maternity and examine whether prohibitive costs – which have to be paid up front – were proving to be a barrier to women getting justice.
It is far better to mediate and avoid costs – businesses that use workplace mediation know the value of supporting their staff, boosting morale, productivity, staff retention and ultimately business success.