New research has found that British women could lose as much as £113 million a year when they’re forced to leave their job because of pregnancy and maternity discrimination.

The study, by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, found that women were most likely to be financially affected when they felt forced to leave their job at an early stage of their pregnancy, due to loss of earnings.

However, even women who kept their jobs reported that they experienced a financial loss due to pregnancy discrimination, amounting to £34 million in total over the following year. This included failing to gain a promotion; having their salary reduced; being demoted; receiving a lower pay rise/bonus than they would otherwise have secured; and not receiving non-salary benefits or having them taken away.

The cost to employers was estimated to be around £280 million over the course of a year, largely due to recruitment and training costs and lost productivity, as well as Statutory Maternity Pay if the woman was on maternity leave when she left.

These findings follow recent research published by the Commission (weekly LELR 430) and the government that showed over three quarters of pregnant women and new mothers - the equivalent of 390,000 women - experience negative and potentially discriminatory treatment at work each year. A total of 11 per cent - the equivalent of around 54,000 - are forced out of their jobs.

In contrast, less than one per cent of women reported lodging a complaint at an employment tribunal. Of those who did, the median compensation awarded in 2014 was over £9,000 and reached up to £13,000 for cases which concerned pregnancy dismissal.

Employers spent a median of £5,000 in 2013 on advice and representation in discrimination cases generally, while for those who reached a financial settlement, the median amount awarded to the claimant was £5,000. The mean costs were £11,626 and £9,581 respectively.

The Commission has called on the government to extend the time limit for making an employment tribunal claim to six months for cases relating to pregnancy and maternity and ensure that fees are not a barrier to women bringing cases.

Iain Birrell, of Thompsons Solicitors, said “It truly is a scandal that we are in this position, but more scandalous still that we have been for decades. Clear leadership by the government is required to address it.

Theresa May’s predecessor said “I’m a dad of two daughters – opportunity won’t mean anything to them if they grow up in a country where they get paid less because of their gender rather than how good they are at their work. The point is this: you can’t have true opportunity without real equality. And I want our party to get this right.” The very next day all 14 Tory MEPs voted against a recommendation for mandatory pay audits which would help tackle it.

Will Mrs May do any better? Time will tell, but listening to the Commission is a good place to start.”

To read the report in full, go to: https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/sites/default/files/research-report-105-cost-of-pregnancy-maternity-discrimination.pdf