Big business has a rotten reputation in this country and it’s against that backdrop that the latest initiative aimed at cutting the quite disgraceful discrimination faced by women who get pregnant needs to be seen. For the uninitiated, a group of leading businesses including Barclays, Ford, Royal Mail, BT Group, and the Nationwide Building Society are fronting a campaign under the auspices of the Equality & Human Rights Commission.
“Working Forward” aims to make workplaces “the best they can be for pregnant women and new mothers”. Why is such an initiative necessary, you may ask?
Well, that’s where it gets interesting. The EHRC touts figures which show 84 per cent of British businesses claiming that they support pregnant women and those on maternity leave. Despite this, some 77 per cent of mothers report having had a negative or discriminatory experience at work.
To address this businesses are importuned to take a pledge, demonstrate “leadership from the top down” and ensure “confident employees”. They are also urged to provide “training and support” to line managers, and here’s the clincher, to offer “flexible working practices”.
They’ll be able to draw on “the experiences of the best” while they’re at it. One does rather wonder if the EHRC has checked out the tribunal records of those purporting to be in that category before holding them up as examples of good practice. Just a thought.
Look, the campaign’s aims are laudable. They are also pragmatic. Businesses keep banging on about the so called skills gap that they face. Discriminating against women who have children – as large numbers do – only serves to deprive them of the skills they say that they need. It is ultimately self defeating and yet the majority of businesses do it all the same. The figures bear that out.