British bosses have admitted to prefer hiring men rather than women of “childbearing age,” a survey revealed today.
According to research conducted for legal firm Slater & Gordon, almost half of all managers are wary of hiring women in their twenties and thirties for fear they will soon want to start a family.
A further third thought that mothers were not as good in the workplace once coming back from maternity leave due to “family distractions.”
The findings are cause for concern among women’s rights groups and trade unions, which have been campaigning against an increase in gender discrimination.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady pointed out that denying someone employment or career advancements “on the grounds that they may have children in the future” is illegal.
“Employers that do this are not only breaking the law but being incredibly stupid as they are missing out on many of the country’s brightest young workers,” Ms O’Grady said.
The data also showed how 60 per cent of working mums felt discriminated against when they became pregnant.
A similar number felt coming back to work after maternity leave a very difficult process.
Since a quarter of those quizzed argued they would simply rather employ a man to avoid issues around childcare altogether, some have suggested that one of the policies to implement would be one of better paternity leave.
Feminist economist and Women’s Budget Group founder Susan Himmelweit believes that this would importantly change employers’ perceptions of men in the workplace.
“So that employers don’t think that men don’t have family responsibilities too,” said Professor Himmelweit, “the only way to get equality in the workplace is in fact for men to be enabled and also encouraged to play an equal role at home.”
Professor Himmelweit also proposed that companies get higher governmental compensation for having employees on parental leave.
Indeed, almost half of the bosses cited financial costs to business as their main concern around maternity leave.
Many also complained of women leaving work after motherhood.
“I suspect that is just prejudice,” responded Professor Himmelweit, “but if it’s not prejudice, what you probably need is better childcare so that the parents can have peace of mind when they are at work.”