Around 54,000 new mothers may be forced out of their job in Britain each year, according to new research carried out by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
In partnership with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, and in the largest ever survey of its kind, 3,254 mothers with a child under two-years old and 3,034 workplaces across the UK were interviewed.
Around one in nine mothers reported they were dismissed, made compulsorily redundant, or treated so poorly they felt they had to leave their job. Some 10 per cent of mothers said their employer had discouraged them from attending antenatal appointments. If scaled up to the general population, this could mean as many as 54,000 mothers per year face discrimination.
In addition, one in five mothers said they had experienced harassment or negative comments related to pregnancy or flexible working from their employer. Again, when scaled up to the UK population, this could mean as many as 100,000 mothers a year could be the subject of harassment.
In response to the findings, Martin Searle Solicitors has launched new anti-discrimination campaign 'Mind the Bump 2015', designed to help end pregnancy and maternity discrimination in the workplace.
The firm, founded in Brighton in 2014, will provide a free telephone advice service for employers and employees concerned about the workplace rights of pregnant women and women on maternity leave.
Fiona Martin, the head of the employment law team at the firm, commented: 'Our first pregnancy and maternity discrimination campaign in 2005 was a result of the Equal Opportunities Commission's research that estimated 30,000 mothers (7 per cent) were forced out of their jobs each year.
'The latest research from the Equality & Human Rights Commission suggests that around 54,000 new mothers may be forced out of their jobs in Britain each year.'
Martin added that despite ongoing equality campaigns, pregnancy and maternity discrimination continued to be a blight on the careers of many women.
'We are still encountering pregnancy and maternity discrimination on a weekly basis,' she continued. 'Equality in the workplace underpins good employment relations and ensures fairness. Employment legislation is there to prevent negative behaviour towards pregnant women and provide a level playing field. Unfortunately, too many employers are paying the price for ignoring the law.'