• Women ‘face pay penalty for becoming mothers before 33’

  • 8 Mar 2016
  • Comments 3 comments

A fifth of female employees are forced out of their jobs after becoming pregnant, suggests TUC study

Women who become mothers before the age of 33 earn 15 per cent less than their female colleagues without children, according to a survey from the Trades Union Congress (TUC) released to coincide with today’s International Women’s Day.

The TUC’s findings come from a birth cohort study of 17,000 people, and suggest that women who have children young are more likely to be in part-time work and earn less on average, even allowing for levels of education and job role.

Older mothers earn an average of 12 per cent more than colleagues without children. In the study a fifth of female respondents under the age of 25 who have children said they were dismissed or effectively forced out of their jobs because of pregnancy or maternity leave. This compares to one in 10 mothers of all ages.

Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC, said: “Millions of mothers still suffer the motherhood pay penalty. We need to do far more to support all working mums, starting by increasing the number of quality part-time jobs and making childcare much more affordable. 

“Women in full-time, well-paid jobs shouldn’t be the only ones able to both become parents and see their careers progress.”

Pregnancy discrimination has become an increasingly important topic since recent government research suggested that 54,000 women were forced out of their jobs because of pregnancy in 2015, double the numbers of a decade earlier. An EHRC report that was expected to delve further into these figures, and the reasons behind them, has been delayed several times, leading to criticism from opposition politicians.

Meanwhile, a separate study – PwC’s Women in Work Index – suggests that the UK is missing out on up to £170bn in economic benefit (equivalent to 9 per cent of GDP) by not having enough women in employment. This is despite the UK rising five places to sixteenth in the index, which measures levels of female employment and the size of the gender pay gap in 33 countries.

Gaenor Bagley, head of people and executive board member at PwC, said: “It’s great to see that the UK has improved its overall performance, but businesses and the economy are still losing out because of the low number of women in full-time employment and the low number of mothers in employment.

“The high cost of childcare has a role to play, but businesses need to play their part in supporting parents to combine work and family life. This includes following the lead of the Nordic countries and offering more flexible roles and working patterns for men and women, shared paternity leave and helping women back into work after career breaks.”

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  • Had my son aged 32, took 6 months off and even though had pre agreed a part time return I was removed from my HR Manager role to a side lined one, same pay but without same prospects. After having daughter at 33, returned 4 days a week but had to deliver a full time role so whilst pay was good, I was working weekends and evening to keep on top of my game so in reality, working more than full time hours for part time pay. After 4 years I resigned and went freelance to achieve greater work life balance. This has been amazing in respect of getting better family time but longer term will affect career development opportunities but that was my choice and I haven't looked back. I believe it is harder to achieve the top jobs as a working mother, particularly those who want some some of flexibility. Tough choices for working mothers but it is about a balance for business needs as well as retaining the right skills in the long term. Interesting article which will undoubtedly raise lots of comments and views.

  • I had my first child at 35 and my second at 37. I returned to work after 3 years off work and took a pay cut of £15,000pro rata to return to a part time position. It has taken me 7 years to reach earnings which are now more than my salary before my first child, in full time work. At the time I returned to work, my salary just about covered my childcare costs which were in the region of £1k per month. The free 15 hours' childcare helped when my children were 3, but it was crippling before that. However, I wanted to get back to work to prevent myself from becoming unemployable in my career which I had worked hard at achieving before children. I wouldn't change what I did and anything which can help mothers return to work, whether that's a greater acceptance of the benefits of flexible working, reduced childcare costs, etc, has to be a good thing or we risk losing so much valuable experience as a consequence.

  • I agree that we should redress the balance for women and employment opportunities, however working mothers should not expect to have special allowances made over workers who do not have children . The management of the whole needs of the business should be strategically worked out through good policies and procedures. We should look at the Nordic model and study how it works in practice and see how the work life balance measures against the needs of the business