Finally: Pregnancy Stigma addressed

Everybody knows it is illegal and most people also know it neither makes business sense. However, research shows young mothers (under 25) are six times more likely than average reporting being dismissed from their jobs after they tell their employer they are pregnant. Two quite different initiatives in the UK and in Germany now address this topic.

The British Equality and Human Rights Commission has launched the digital campaign #PowertotheBump to unite young mothers in their fight against pregnancy and maternity discrimination at work. The campaign aims at helping young expectant and new mothers know their rights at work and have the confidence to stand up for them.

Meanwhile, in Germany, the Federal Ministry for Family, Seniors, Women and Youth has published a new brochure „How I tell my boss“. On 52 pages, they guide readers how to reach an agreement on parental leave with their employers. The legal framework and the challenges are described along with a three-phases model (before and during absence, after re-entry). The brochures consciously uses positive language and a number of testimonials from renowned companies. It also refers to a company-wider network ‘success factor family’ that connects companies and stakeholders around family-friendly policies and practices, including regional chapters. It includes four checklists with a total of 38 items and some references to parents’ networks.

The differences between the two approaches are vast. This is partly explained by the publishing institutions – a Federal Ministry and an independent policy commission respectively – and party by cultural differences.

  • The British approach is strong and outspoken as it also flags out issues that might occur – calling a spade a spade. It uses social media communities, #PowertotheBump to bring together young mothers to share their experiences and knowledge so they are able to assert their rights and challenge any poor treatment which might be discriminatory, and have an impact on themselves and their baby.
  • The German brochure, on the other side, seems to want to insist that everything is perfectly fine and everyone is happy to accommodate parental leave periods (up to three) for both fathers and mothers, from which everyone will benefit. Just the reality of (mostly) women does not match with this ambition.

The British campaign might also be stronger as the Commission developed the project drawing on the expertise of partners including The Young Women’s Trust, Fawcett Society, Maternity Action, The Royal College of Midwives and the TUC. It is based on the insight and feedback that shows young women had lower awareness of their rights, were typically in less stable employment situations and were worried or lacked confidence to talk to their manager about things that were troubling them – and so felt under pressure to hand in their notice or leave their job than raise issues.

The campaign features a new video starring the mum vloggers Katie Ellison, Jess Avery, Charlotte Louise Taylor and Emily Norris. They share the campaign’s top tips and their own experiences to encourage young mothers to take the right steps to protect themselves at work during pregnancy and to encourage open discussion and planning with their managers. This video will be hosted on the popular parenting You Tube site Channel Mum from 4pm today.

With these tools, #PowertotheBump delivers many of the same messages than the German brochures, simply in a more contemporary, lively and certainly multi-channelled way. Caroline Waters, Deputy Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission commented research findings by saying: “Young working mothers are feeling the brunt of pregnancy and maternity discrimination with more than any other age group being forced out of their jobs, facing harassment and experiencing issues with their health as a result. We want young women to use #PowertotheBump to speak up against this unfairness.

#PowertotheBump is one element of the Commission’s wider comprehensive strategy to address pregnancy and maternity discrimination at work. It includes the recently published recommendations to Government that calls for them to do more to ensure women have access to justice and asks them to take the steps that are needed to stop employers asking women about their plans to have children and pregnancy in job interviews. More information on this website.

The German brochure can be found here

To watch the #PowertotheBump video please visit this website