|Press = Denis Campbell: Observer article on working mothers (19/03/06)|
Mothers' job prospects are worst of all
Denis Campbell, social affairs correspondent
Mothers face greater discrimination in finding a job than disabled people,
Asian women and the elderly, new government research has found.
Pakistani and Bangladeshi women face 'a penalty' of 29 per cent; for the disabled it is 16 per cent. Women with children under 11 and a partner are 37 per cent more likely to be unemployed, while the figure for lone mothers in the same situation is 41 per cent, according to an analysis of labour market trends by Professor Richard Berthoud, a research fellow at the Institute for Economic and Social Research at Essex University.
Berthoud's account of obstacles to work is contained in an interim report being published tomorrow by the Equalities Review, commissioned last year by Tony Blair and led by Commission for Racial Equality chairman Trevor Phillips. It is probing why serious inequality and poverty persist, despite decades of anti-discrimination policy and law.
The scale of the difficulty faced by mothers seeking to resume work after giving birth has surprised work equality campaigners. 'We have laboured under the misapprehension that the most discriminated against workers are the disabled and those from black and ethnic minority groups, but we were wrong,' said Sarah Veale, the TUC's head of equality and employment rights.
'We knew working mothers faced a marked financial penalty compared to male colleagues, but not that they found it this hard to get a job in the first place.'
Last year the Recruitment and Employment Confederation found 75 per cent of firms using recruitment agencies asked them not to hire women who were pregnant or of child-bearing age, despite this being illegal.
'Employers exercise prejudice against people who have competing demands on their time outside the workplace, such as mothers of small children,' said Veale. 'While larger companies are better about hiring people who need to work flexibly, small firms tend to be more nervous.'
Ministers should encourage employers to allow job-sharing in senior posts and expand affordable, good-quality childcare, said Veale.