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Boss asked woman if she “intended to keep the baby” as pregnancy discrimination in UK grows

by | Jun 22, 2020

By SPUC—the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children

A woman has spoken out about the negative workplace attitude that she faced after informing her boss that she was pregnant. The anonymous woman describes how she was placed on unpaid leave and was asked by management if she “intended to keep the baby.”

Speaking to a pregnancy rights charity, the woman explained how she was working in the hospitality industry when she contacted her employers one week before the COVID-19 lockdown to inform them that she was pregnant. The baby was lost during a miscarriage some weeks later.

The woman described how the negative workplace attitude towards her pregnancy caused a breakdown in her personal and financial life.

Margaret Akers, SPUC Campaign Research Officer said: “It is important that women in the workplace do not have their job security threatened because of pregnancy. Pregnancy discrimination is not only illegal but can put pregnant women in an extremely vulnerable position at a time when their focus should be on their wellbeing and that of their unborn child.”

“I was met with a stony silence”

The anonymous woman said:  “A week prior to lockdown, I contacted my employers as I had discovered I was pregnant again and – in addition to my other children at home – had wider family health concerns, with some shielding… I was met with a stony silence.

“Two days later, I received an email stating that due to my concerns I would be put on 12 weeks unpaid leave starting immediately…I was asked if I intended to keep the baby. 

“I need to return to work for financial reasons, but we can’t now afford childcare. I am getting into debt in order to survive day-to-day. 

“Long-term, I think my career will be affected…I am unable to sleep, everything is just so stressful.  I’ve been through a lot and the worries that accompany Covid and its impact have not helped. We have been devastated and it will take a long time to recover.”

Choosing between the health of my unborn baby and being paid

The pregnancy rights charity has a stockpile of testimonies from pregnant women who feel disenfranchised as workers, a feeling which appears to have escalated due to the pressures caused by the Coronavirus lockdown.

Another woman has described how being a pregnant worker during lockdown “robbed her of what should be a magical time.” She said: “I felt confused, angry and in an impossible position. I was having to choose between my health and potentially the health of my unborn baby and being paid at the end of the month… Despite furlough being an option for them, the company has shown a lack of compassion and support, putting me under a huge amount of stress and robbed me of what should be a magical and exciting time of my life.”

One woman reflected on her experience as a pregnant professional as though she had “travelled back a decade with a salary to match.”

 “Negative workplace attitudes to pregnancy can create pressure to abort”

SPUC has been reporting on how pregnancy discrimination in the workplace is more than isolated incidents but is part of a growing hostility towards pregnancy and motherhood.

report from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy estimates that as many as 54,000 women each year may be fired or otherwise lose their role because of pregnancy or motherhood. The study also found that 1 in 5 women received negative comments or harassment related to pregnancy in the workplace.

Mrs. Akers added: “It is not difficult to imagine a scenario in which such negative workplace attitudes towards pregnancy and motherhood makes a woman feel pressured towards abortion in order to protect her career.”

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