According to research about 11% of women are pushed out of their jobs following maternity leave – about 54,000 women a year– but only 1% of these lodge a complaint at an employment tribunal, according to the watchdog. The cost to British women who were forced out of their jobs – either by being dismissed, treated so poorly they had to leave, or made compulsorily redundant – could be as much as £113m a year, according to the report.
Sadly, many women who kept their jobs still faced a financial loss costing up to £34m in total over the year after their return to work as a result of having pay reduced, missing out on promotions or receiving a lower pay rise or bonus.
On Friday I was interviewed on LBC Radio's breakfast show, presented by Nick Ferrari. Nick's perspective was that small companies can't accommodate women who want flexibility, as staff need to be physically present during working hours, but that large organisations have no excuse.
It's 15 years since I was personally on maternity leave, and I left my role at the time as my part time request was rejected. From my experience coaching women through their career, they have shared with me similar experiences much more recently:
the role suddenly being made redundant when on or returning from maternity leave
being demoted as their role couldn't possibly be executed part-time
negative assumptions around their level of ambition after having a child and so not being considered for promotion
conference calls and meetings being held outside of working hours
feeling bullied in to finding work elsewhere
I have also seen positive stories of forward thinking employers that offer flexible working for all employees, where women have received promotion while on maternity leave and offering senior positions as part-time.
However, I do have concerns that there are not enough good experiences for women, and the rise in women opting out of corporate life and starting their own businesses is testament to that. Women are 50% of the population and more young women are taking degree qualifications than men. Organisations are really going to miss out on top talent if they don't change their ways as well as the diversity of perspective that keeps them competitive.
You can listen to my interview with Nick here and I'd love to hear your perspectives as an employee or employer on the topic of women resuming and excelling in their careers after returning from maternity leave.