Female workers fear discrimination when requesting maternity leave


A new survey indicates that many female workers are unable to obtain details about maternity benefits from their employer and at least 1% are concerned that requesting this could result in them being fired.

Only one third of female employees said they were provided with information about maternity benefits when they commenced their current job, although at least 50% believe that the provision of this information should be compulsory.

Glassdoor, the jobs and careers community, surveyed 1000 UK working females about maternity benefits. The participants included 50% who had already taken maternity leave and 50% who plan to do so at some point in the future.

Employers are able to reclaim most of the maternity pay from the government. They are able to reclaim 92% of employees’ Statutory Maternity, Paternity and Adoption Pay. This figure rises to 103% for small businesses that pay below £45000 in Class 1 National Insurance contributions.

Although employers do not bear the financial burden, the survey indicates that many are not clear about what they offer employees.

The survey found that two in five female workers thought information about maternity benefits was difficult to find and 13% said they had to request information as it is not readily available within the business. Two in five stated they would only request information if they were announcing their pregnancy.

Of the ones who would not request information, 43% stated that they feared their employer would assume they were already pregnant, 37% felt their employer would think they are trying to get pregnant, 30% felt that it was unprofessional, and 22% feared the risk of redundancy.

Although many employees are prepared to request information about benefits, such as pension, healthcare and holiday allowance, during the interview, four in five of the survey participants thought that requesting maternity benefit information during the interview would jeopardise their chances of gaining employment. Half feared that the potential employer would think they are already pregnant and 20% thought their application would not be taken seriously.

One third felt that their career progression would be hindered.

Glassdoor career and workplace expert, Jon Ingham, said women are an important part of the business world in the UK and a more honest and open approach to maternity benefits could improve the quality of candidates applying for positions at an organisation.

The study comes after more financial help for working families was sought by business leaders. The CBI has asked the government to offer maternity pay and free childcare, calling it ‘ludicrous’ that in the UK, the average working couple spends one third of their joint income on childcare.

A charity has warned that parents with young children are due to face a sharp increase in nursery and preschool fees as the government funding for free childcare does not cover all the costs. Working parents with children between the ages of three and four are offered 15 hours of free childcare per week.

Maternity Benefits for Female Workers

Most women qualify for statutory maternity leave and pay. There are some employers that offer over and above the basics.

Statutory maternity leave is limited to 26 weeks. The worker may request a further 26 weeks.

Women receive at least 90% of their average weekly earnings for the first six-week period. Thereafter they are paid 90% of their average weekly earnings or £138.18, whichever is the lowest, for the next 33 weeks.

To qualify for these benefits, they should earn an average of at least £111 per week, give their employer correct notice, offer proof of pregnancy and have worked for their employer continuously for a minimum of 26 weeks up to the 15th week prior to the expected week of childbirth.

Image Credit: Thomas Pompernigg


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