Young mothers face shocking levels of discrimination at work, says report

ONE in four young mothers has experienced discrimination when their employer found out they were pregnant, according to a study from the Young Women's Trust.

Dr Carole Easton of the Young Women's Trust

The study also found that some young women are reporting discrimination when looking for jobs. Thirty nine per cent of the survey’s respondents said they had been questioned in job interviews about how being a mother would affect their ability to work. The trust said its research shows that young mothers are experiencing discrimination more frequently than older mothers.

The trust argues that tackling the discrimination that some young mothers face is crucial to help them find work, with most respondents in the Young Women’s Trust survey ranking it as equal to, or more important than, child care issues.

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Eighty per cent said employers’ attitudes towards pregnant women or mothers with young children would play an important role in their search for work. Most of the young mothers surveyed said it was important for more jobs to be advertised with flexible hours (83 per cent) or part-time hours (81 per cent), so they could balance work with family commitments. Twenty six per cent, however, said they had had requests for flexible working related to their pregnancy or child turned down.

The young mothers who were surveyed reported that motherhood had equipped them with skills that are valuable to employers.

Sixty per cent said their time management skills had improved since becoming a mother and 54 per cent said they had improved their communication skills. Budgeting skills, people skills and motivation to work also improved substantially, the report found.

Sophie Kathir, one of the young mothers who was quizzed as part of the survey, said: “As a young mother, I never thought looking for work would be so hard. In my first interview after university I said that one of my achievements was studying while caring for a baby. As soon as I mentioned my child, the atmosphere changed. After a few brisk questions, it was over. I knew I wasn’t going to get the job even before I received the call the next day. The interviewer said I was the perfect candidate but I had ‘too much baggage’ to undertake such a demanding job. I knew exactly what they meant by ‘baggage’. It took me nine months to get my first proper job and I didn’t mention my kids in any other interviews. It made me feel guilty to have to hide such a beautiful thing but I needed to get a job.”

Young Women’s Trust chief executive Dr Carole Easton said: “The level of discrimination that Young Women’s Trust has uncovered against young mothers who are in work or looking for jobs is shocking.

“It is in everyone’s interest to help young mothers who want to work. As our findings show, young mothers have a huge amount to contribute to their workplaces and many want to be financially independent and support their families. Tackling discrimination would benefit mums, businesses and the economy as a whole.

“Employers should value young mothers’ contributions to their workplaces and do more to accommodate them, including offering more flexible and part-time working opportunities.”

The survey was conducted in February 2017 with a representative sample of 319 mothers aged 16 to 24 in the UK. The findings will be included in a Young Women’s Trust report to be released on March 23, which looks at the challenges young mothers face.