Survey shows pregnancy attitudes outdated

19 February 2018 | By James Kenny

Image: Syda Productions/

Almost two thirds of construction employers agree that a woman should have to disclose whether she is pregnant during the recruitment process.

This is just one of the worrying attitudes the industry displays in recruiting women, new statistics from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) reveal.

The survey, which questioned 1,106 senior decision makers in business, found that British employers in general have outdated and worrying attitudes towards unlawful behaviour when it comes to recruiting women.

Conducted by YouGov on behalf of the EHRC, the survey was commissioned to understand managers’ attitudes around pregnancy and maternity discrimination.

Among the other findings in the construction industry were: 

The EHRC is calling on employers eliminate these attitudes and more importantly, pregnancy and maternity discrimination in the workplace for good. This can be achieved by employing best practice and joining the Working Forward initiative to improve business practices and make British businesses the best they can be for pregnant women and new parents.

Rebecca Hilsenrath, chief executive of the EHRC, said: “It is a depressing reality that, when it comes the rights of pregnant woman and new mothers in the workplace, we are still living in the dark ages. We should all know very well that it is against the law not to appoint a woman because she is pregnant or might become pregnant.

“Yet we also know women routinely get asked questions around family planning in interviews. It’s clear that many employers need more support to better understand the basics of discrimination law and the rights of pregnant women and new mothers. Working Forward provides this support. We need more businesses to join. Work with us if you are interested in a better deal for women in the workplace.”

During recruitment, women should have to disclose whether they are pregnant (All business)

Source: YouGov

During recruitment, it is reasonable to ask women if they have young children (All business)

Source: YouGov

Women who have had more than one pregnancy while in the same job can be a burden to their team (All business)

Source: YouGov


I think more relevant question that should have been asked...
"How many avoid recruiting women between the ages of 25 - 40 years of age?" and
"If you have a choice would you prefer to employ a man or a women?".

I have worked in the recruitment industry for many years and the issue continues; clients regularly deter from recruiting female candidates whilst in their "baby producing years".

Name Withheld, 19 February 2018

As a 59 year old male, with around 40 years' experience in construction and property owners' services - I too am facing discrimination when looking for a job. No-one will ever say "you're too old", but despite a pretty successful history and in difficult conditions, I receive few calls.
I agree it may not be politically - or morally - correct to refuse a pregnant woman a new job. Personally, I have never asked a female candidate the same questions as above.
But there is another side to the coin. As an employer in the past - I have seen some limited abuse of the system, and the costs entailed. So ask yourself:
Is it ethical to take on a new job knowing that you will soon be absent on maternity leave, to the obvious detriment of your new company?
Is it morally right to take on a new job which, despite an adequate health and safety duty of care, may not - and in some cases, cannot - provide the ideal calm, stress/risk free environment for an unborn child?
Once the baby is born, will you be able to focus 100% on the job in hand, or will you spend part of the time worrying (quite naturally) about your baby or making telephone calls to check? I think not.
No doubt this will elicit some negative reaction. For those I say:
There are two sides to the coin.
Think outside the box.
Be realistic, be practical, be ethical.
Be careful what you wish for!

Alan Howes, 19 February 2018

If the Chief Executive of the EHRC had any experience of running a major project, where deadlines were paramount, requiring continuity of staffing in a pressured environment, her naive comments no doubt would change.

Winston Huth-Wallis, 19 February 2018

I became pregnant during an extended probation period and was then made redundant on account that I would be on maternity leave when the project starts on site.
Since then, all I have had are contract roles which were advertised 'contract to perm' but the permanent role would not transpire (despite no issues with my performance).
The biggest outright excuse being 'when we employed you we didn't know you had childcare duties and in fact we need someone who can start 8am', and this in public sector that is signed up to Agenda for Change and flexible working patterns.
I have noticed a distinct difference in the roles being offered to me when childcare is not mentioned, compared to when I do mention this.

Female Project Manager, 19 February 2018

Winston Huth-Wallis’s & others remarks above are spot on. The Equalities & Human Rights Commission are totally out of touch with the practicalities, ramifications & costs of what they are proposing. The site environment is risky for a pregnant woman & the pressure of the programme does not allow for ‘part time staff’! This all may be fine in the public sector, where time keeping & profitability are not an issue. If any of these women were to run a contract or their own construction business, they would soon realise why recruitment within the industry tends to discriminate against women who are pregnant & those with children. Why would any private company employ a person, particularly on site, who was soon to be taking parental leave for 6 or 12 months, who pays for a replacement employee in the meantime? EHRC need to be realistic get out on site & live in the real world, construction is hard enough at the best of times - ask Carillion!

Richard Moore. MCIOB, 19 February 2018

Does everyone have a crystal ball? Should an employer ask do you see yourself pregnant whilst working with the company or do you consider yourself to be disabled? Most people would not admit to the latter especially if their disability is hidden. Maybe there should be a list of options on job application forms that describes someone who may have a disability. It is up to them if they want to disclose that information or not and it is up to the Employer if they want to hire that person based on capability rather than reliability or discrimination.

Syreeta M. Gibson, 19 February 2018

As a working Chartered Surveyor, Chartered Construction Manager, wife and mother of two young children I am glad to see that these somewhat regressive attitudes towards women in an industry that I am very passionate about have been brought to light.
I am fortunate enough to have come from a hardworking and supportive family of men and women who pulled together and worked as a team to provide for and take care of children. There are many successful mothers in business.
Successful working mothers are often masters of planning, organising and of managing time and resources. Many women are diligent in their attention to detail, able to demonstrate assertiveness without ego and thus encourage collaborative working and they are also able to see their daily actions, decisions and the risks they take within a broader context.
Of course not all women (or men) exhibit these qualities. The point is that people should be appraised on the skills and potential they offer and on what they can and have delivered. As to the perception that pregnant women will take advantage of their employers whilst pregnant, any person of any gender may seek to take advantage of their employer at any point in their career. That is one of the challenges of managing people.
There are also many pregnant women who are able to maintain productivity and continue to deliver just as well if not better than their non-pregnant colleagues because of the sheer tenacity and commitment it takes from them to promote their careers in a male dominated industry.
There is much room for improvement in project delivery in terms of time, cost, quality, advances in technology, sustainably, risk management etc. Therefore to potentially exclude or hold back the contribution of an entire gender based on a relatively short period during their careers when they may or may not be having children is in my view, very shortsighted indeed.
Let us remind ourselves who kept factories working, lands farmed, engines running, bridges being built while our brave men fought in the First and Second World Wars. Give a worthy woman a chance and you may be pleasantly surprised by what she can achieve for your business.

Sent from my iPhone

Female Project Manager MRICS, MCIOB, 20 February 2018

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