European & International News

Pay inequity and maternity discrimination: study finds 50,000 women a year don’t get jobs back, contributes to gender pay gap

[Brussels, 28 August, 2013]
On August 26th, 183,870 people joined in to thunderclap equal pay for women (thunderclap is a wave of twitter online support for an idea). Equal Pay Today! is the U.S. based campaign led by The American Civil Liberties Union, (ACLU) and works across federal and state levels to address the causes of pay inequity. Discrimination against pregnant workers and new mothers, lack of paid sick or family leave, pay secrecy and occupational segregation are some of the key issues that campaigners are asking governors in 50 states to address. EPT! is engaging people across the country on the subject of equal pay, and in addition to pushing for policy changes, the campaign works with advocates to bring litigation under state law where it will have more impact than its federal counterparts.

Discrimination on the job before and after giving birth is a relatively silent but common phenomenon in the EU. In the UK, recent research reported by The Independent revealed that up to 50,000 women who take maternity leave each year are unable to return to the jobs they left due to workplace discrimination. This includes fewer hours, changed job title, less chance of promotion or outright dismissal, contributing to a growing gendered wage gap later in life. Exacerbating these experiences, expensive procedures for tribunal and legal costs leave many women discouraged and unable to seek retribution.

This affects women across all spectrums of the economy: in an ironic twist, shadow minister for Women and Equalities in the UK, Yvette Cooper, experienced firsthand a treatment of “hostility, making it hard to keep in touch, and trying to change [her] job and working arrangements while [she] was away.” The minister has since expressed a strong will to address maternity discrimination and action against employers that break the law.

The EWL 2 Years Overdue campaign continues to call for action on a blocked maternity leave directive at the European Council level that would allow for for 20 weeks full pay maternity leave, with a so-called “passerelle clause” to combine maternity and parental leave for countries that already have this system in place. In addition, 2 weeks fully paid paternity leave was also agreed in the European Parliament’s proposal and a protection clause which provides for mothers’ and fathers’ protection up to 6 months on return to their workplace.

The EWL encourages further legal recourse for new mothers in the workforce and continues to call for reconciliatory measures for better work life balance, including affordable and accessible childcare, shared caring responsibilities and fully paid maternity leave. It is our hope and mission to secure fair and equitable access to the workforce and thereby improve the livelihoods of women, their families and communities.

We will be following the EPT! Campaign stay tuned for updates!

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