Nearly one in three UK bosses admit they have or would reject a female job applicant because they suspect she ‘might start a family soon’.
Although this form of employment discrimination is unlawful, 15 per cent anonymously admitted that they had broken sex discrimination laws.
The new research of 501 bosses of SMEs, carried out by law firm Slater and Gordon, also revealed that one in four bosses have rejected or would reject a woman, simply because she was a single parent.
A further 29 per cent said they have discounted or would discount a woman for a job role because she had young children and 28 per cent said they have or would because she was recently engaged or married.
Shockingly 37 per cent of bosses admitted they would advertise positions for men only if the law allowed, with 40 per cent saying they perceived men as being more committed to their jobs.
The research shows the female workforce is still facing significant levels of discrimination when it comes to juggling a career and motherhood.
More than a third of senior decision makers said they would rather hire a man to get around the issue of offering maternity leave.
Sadly, 14 per cent of all the bosses surveyed, admitted they do not do a thing to support mothers when coming back to work, after being on maternity leave.
And 36 per cent said they think ‘women are more of a future investment risk’ than men.
Remziye Ozcan, employment lawyer at Slater and Gordon, said:
The extent of discrimination exposed in this research is shocking. I come across many individual cases of women encountering sex and maternity discrimination but to see in black and white the full extent of the problem is really worrying.
Women may suspect they’ve been discriminated against at job interviews, but in many cases they will never know for sure. Now this research shows that it’s not paranoia it’s in fact prejudice and discrimination, which is still deeply entrenched in the workforce and something that women face every day.
Our survey exposes the number of bosses who are willing to admit to their prejudices- in an anonymous capacity – suggesting the real number is likely to be far higher.
It is not only illegal but also totally counterproductive if bosses refuse to entertain a woman’s job application, regardless of her experience, skill set or qualifications, simply because they feel she might have a child soon because it excludes so much talent and expertise from a workforce.
A huge shift in attitudes still needs to take place before women feel they are not penalised for wanting both a career and children. Men are never asked to choose between the two. This discrimination also affects women generally, those who don’t plan to have children or already have children, as it is about attitudes and stereotypes applied to women generally.
Over one in three said they actively try to recruit men or women who already have children so they don’t have to worry about staff going on maternity leave.
Although negative attitudes are still held by some, 65 per cent of all the 501 bosses surveyed said they do offer flexible working hours to support mothers when they are coming back to work.
More than half (53 percent) said they allow mothers to take time off to look after their children if they’re sick and 48 per cent said they keep lines of communication open whilst they are on maternity leave.
Until men start to demand paternity leave and share equally childcare responsibilities this (maybe not so) “hidden” discrimination will, sadly, continue. And to discover that 28 per cent said they have or would not hire a woman because she was recently engaged or married is, in this day and age, unbelievable.