By Magdalena Mis
LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Tens of thousands of new mothers in Britain are forced out of their jobs each year, a survey published on Friday said.
More than one in ten new mothers said they were dismissed, made redundant or treated so badly they felt they had to quit their jobs, said the Equality and Human Rights Commision (EHRC).
"This research reveals the worrying levels of discrimination and disadvantage at work that women still face today," Caroline Waters, EHRC deputy chair, said in a statement.
"Not only is discrimination unlawful, but it is also bad for business."
Although most British employers pledge support for female staff during and after their pregnancies, the study estimated some 54,000 new mothers could be forced out of jobs every year, almost twice the number identified in research in 2005.
"Not only is it preventing women achieving their potential, it means short sighted businesses are missing out on a wealth of female talent," Belinda Phipps, chair of the Fawcett Society, a women's rights group, said in a statement.
Around 10 percent of women said they had been discouraged by their employer from attending antenatal appointments, according to the survey carried out with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, which researchers said was the biggest of its kind.
A fifth of women experienced harassment or negative comments at work while pregnant or after returning from maternity leave and one in 10 said they were treated worse by their employers after having children than before their pregnancies.
More than one in 20 women said they were put under pressure to quit after returning from maternity leave.
The survey found that around half of the mothers who were allowed to work flexible hours said their opportunities were diminished and their opinions were less valued.
Prime Minister David Cameron this month pledged to help women going back to work after having children by improving childcare support and to end a 'scandalous' gender pay gap.
Women make up 47 percent of Britain's workforce, but a British woman earns only 80 percent of a man's pay.
The survey was published as the EHCR launched the #worksforme awareness initiative to tackle pregnancy and maternity discrimination.
(Reporting by Magdalena Mis; Editing by Ros Russell; Please credit Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, corruption and climate change. Visit www.trust.org)