New research has found one in 61 pregnant women said their boss had suggested they terminate their pregnancy, according to charity Pregnant Then Screwed (PTS).
One respondent to the study told PTS that when she told her boss about her pregnancy at eight weeks she said “it would be easier for your future career if you just brought a coat hanger”.
Three colleagues went on to tell her that she had ruined her career and should have had an abortion.
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Over half (52%) of mothers have faced maternity discrimination, while one in five (19%) left their job due to a negative experience.
Additionally, 10% were bullied or harassed when pregnant or returning to work, and 7% of women lost their job, through redundancy, sacking or feeling forced to leave due to a flexible working request being declined, or due to health and safety issues.
Joeli Brearly, founder of PTS, said all employers must prioritise making the workplace safe and comfortable for pregnant women and working parents.
Speaking to HR magazine, she said: “There is absolutely no excuse for bosses, who hold the power, to tell their employee to abort a pregnancy. It is sex discrimination and it is inhumane.
“All employers need to stop viewing pregnant women as a burden to businesses. This is how we will stop discrimination from happening in the first place.”
Brearly said businesses need an anonymous reporting process where all claims of maternity discrimination are immediately investigated.
She said: “Any employees experiencing discrimination should be given mental health support and the direct support of someone senior within the organisation who will support them through the reporting and the investigation.
“Employees need to be confident that if they report discrimination, they will be heard and that there is an official process in place that will be followed.”
Guidance from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) says employers must provide breastfeeding mothers with somewhere hygienic and private to express milk, stating “toilets are not a suitable or hygienic place for this”.
The majority (90%) of respondents who were breastfeeding said they had to use a toilet or were not provided any suitable space to do so.
The study also found 32% of women who told their employer about having an abortion felt they experienced discrimination or were unfairly treated as a result.
Flexible working and phased return to work should be a minimum for those who have had an abortion, Brearly said.
“Women need to be supported in workplaces at every stage, and they will likely need time out of work at a time like this.
“Workplaces need to consider both the physical and emotional toll of an abortion on an employee and support them as an individual by listening to their needs and enabling them to return to work once they are mentally and physically ready.”
The report surveyed over 24,000 parents and a sample of 3,540 was randomly selected targeting national representation on gender, region and social grade.