Pregnancy at Work: A National Survey, published by the HSE Crisis Pregnancy Programme (CPP) and the Equality Authority, presents the findings of Ireland’s first nationally representative survey of women’s experiences at work during and after pregnancy. The majority of mothers with young children and women of childbearing age are now in the workforce and their experience at work during and after pregnancy have become increasingly relevant over time.
The HSE Crisis Pregnancy Programme (CPP) and the Equality Authority today released ‘Pregnancy at Work: A National Survey’ - a major new research report which presents the findings of Ireland’s first nationally representative survey of women’s experiences at work during and after pregnancy. The majority of mothers with young children and women of childbearing age are now in the workforce and their experience at work during and after pregnancy have become increasingly relevant over time.
The survey sample of 2,300 women was randomly selected from the Department of Social Protection’s universal child benefit register and comprised of women whose youngest child was born between July 2007 and June 2009. The research report was prepared by Dr Helen Russell, Dr Dorothy Watson and Dr Joanne Banks of the ESRI.
Areas surveyed include treatment by employers during pregnancy, health and safety, crisis pregnancy, maternity leave, parental leave and return to work. For the very first time, this survey provides compelling evidence that work-related reasons are a contributory factor in crisis pregnancy experience.
The survey’s findings show that:
33% of women stated that their pregnancy was a crisis pregnancy
The economic down-turn is having a clear impact on reports of crisis pregnancy as almost 50% of the women who experienced a crisis pregnancy stated that financial concerns contributed to the crisis
27% of working women who experienced a crisis pregnancy stated that workplace factors such as ‘work plans’ or ‘work commitments’ or ‘concern about the reaction from employers or co-workers’ to the pregnancy had contributed to the crisis
There is a strong link between experiences of unfair treatment at work and crisis pregnancy: Women who experienced more than one form of unfair treatment were at an increased risk of experiencing a crisis pregnancy.
On the positive side, the availability of flexible working practices was associated with a reduced likelihood of crisis pregnancy for women in employment. Mothers who experienced lower levels of work-family conflict during pregnancy were less likely to report a crisis pregnancy.
The survey also provides the first nationally representative data on the extent to which women experience unfair treatment at work due to pregnancy in Ireland. Regarding women in employment:
Up to 30% reported experiencing unfair treatment even though 71%, reported that they had a supportive employer in the context of their pregnancy
5% of women employed during pregnancy reported that they were dismissed, made redundant or treated so badly that they had to leave their job.
Unfair treatment was more commonly reported by younger women, women expecting their second child, women working in the retail and wholesale sector, women working in organisations with few flexible work arrangements and in workplaces that didn’t have a formal equality policy. - Unfair treatment was less common among women working for small organizations and in workplaces that had a formal equality policy
The most common form of unfair treatment was being assigned unsuitable work or workloads (12%).
Unfavourable treatment was also experienced by some women returning to work after childbirth. Almost one quarter felt that their opportunities for promotion had decreased on returning to work while over one fifth of women felt that their opportunities for training had decreased.
The survey also investigates uptake of maternity and parental leave and finds evidence that strongly points to inequalities among women: Women with higher earnings potential, better levels of education and an employed partner are more likely to avail of the extended period of unpaid maternity leave and to receive top-up payments from the employer while on maternity leave. On the other hand among women with lower earnings potential, not only are they less likely to receive employer-provided top-up payments, but financial pressures result in a lower take-up of unpaid leave and an earlier return to work.
HSE Crisis Pregnancy Programme and the Equality Authority (Ireland)