“British employers are living in the dark ages,” the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has said. It comes off the back of a 1,106-strong survey of senior decision makers in regards to women in the workplace. “Antiquated” attitudes, the EHRC claimed, were evident from the get-go. It found that during job interviews, 59 per cent of bosses would ask whether a candidate was pregnant. Almost half would find out whether they had children, while 36 per cent wanted to know if they planned to have children in the near future. Some 44 per cent suggested women needed to work for at least a year before thinking of having children in the first place. “That same number,” the EHRC said, “agree that women, who have more than one pregnancy while in the same job, can be a ‘burden’ to their team. In fact, 40 per cent claim to have seen at least one women in their workplace ‘take advantage’ of their pregnancy.” Intriguingly, 36 per cent belive it tricky to protect new or expectant women from colleagues, with half suggesting fellow employees resented those on or soon to take maternity leave. “Employers may be under the impression that, because the female candidate is not actually pregnant at the time of the interview, that the anti-discrimination laws do not kick in yet,” Peninsula’s head of advisory, Kate Palmer, told Real Business. “But they would be wrong. Employers must do more to realise the wide scope of discrimination laws to protect themselves against Employment Tribunal claims and the subsequent impact on brand reputation. “Asking questions in a recruitment interview about plans to have children should be avoided. It emphatically announces the employer’s intention to factor the response into their decision over who gets the job: someone who is likely to have a year out of the business at some point or someone who is not. Making decisions based on pregnancy, or likely pregnancy, is unlawful.” In lieu of the results, the EHRC is calling for employers to join the Working Forward initiative, which commits bosses to take two of the following actions: boost employee confidence, supporting line managers and hop onto the flexible working ban wagon.
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