Most UK Employers Expect Women Candidates to Disclose Pregnancy

Most UK Employers Expect Women Candidates to Disclose Pregnancy

A recent survey by the UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission found that 59 percent of employers believe a woman should have to disclose whether she is pregnant to her prospective employer while being considered for a position, while 46 percent believe it is reasonable to ask if they have young children and 44 percent said women should work for an organization for at least a year before deciding to have children, Personnel Today’s Rob Moss reported last week:

The EHRC research, conducted in autumn 2017 by YouGov, also found that:

  • 44% of employers believe that women who have had more than one pregnancy while in the same job can be a “burden” to their team
  • 41% say that pregnancy in the workplace puts “an unnecessary cost burden” on the workplace
  • 40% of employers claim to have seen at least one pregnant woman in their workplace “take advantage” of their pregnancy
  • 32% believe women who become pregnant and new mothers in work are “generally less interested in career progression” than other employees.

Surprisingly, most HR decision makers share some of the sentiment of the wider survey sample.

These assumptions and sentiments are exactly the reason why women shouldn’t have to disclose if they are pregnant in an interview or at any point during recruitment. I understand the desire to control for all factors in recruiting, but if sentiments such as these lead to fewer women being hired, than this is perpetuating the problem of discrimination against pregnant women and mothers, based on the erroneous assumption that hiring mothers will have a negative impact on business.

The focus on mothers also suggests the gender bias inherent in these attitudes: If a woman has to reveal that she is pregnant, should a man also be expected to reveal that his partner is pregnant? Why is the expectation that women with young children will be “less interested in career progression” while fathers are not subjected to this same assumption?

The persistence of these discriminatory attitudes demonstrate the enduring need for changes in parental leave policies as well as the expectation of flexible work. In our research on parental leave at CEB, now Gartner, we have seen that parental leave increases intent to stay and that longer leave leads to increased motivation (belying the idea that these employees are “less interested in career progression”).

Additionally, we see positive effects on both productivity and performance in the workplace due to parental leave. About 90 percent of employees believe that their productivity, performance, and profitability is either positively or neutrally impacted by leave policies. Research has also shown that supportive policies for employees with children improves retention, particularly of women, which reduces costs associated with turnover.

(CEB Diversity and Inclusion Leadership Council members can read our full research report on parental leave here.)