Wales

Maternity discrimination: 'Having a baby cost me my job'

Sarah with her two children, Danny and Caitlin Image copyright Sarah Rees
Image caption Sarah Rees had just given birth to Caitlin (left), now four, when she was made redundant from her job

The first Sarah Rees knew about her imminent departure from the job she loved was when her name disappeared from her employer's website.

Ms Rees, from Penarth, was on maternity leave after giving birth to her first child when she was made redundant.

"It stinks but it happens to women all the time," said Ms Rees, whose employer was a national women's charity.

Ms Rees joined campaigners in the Senedd on Thursday to call for more flexible working hours for parents.

Shortly after she went on maternity leave, Ms Rees described how her employer ignored her e-mails and calls.

"I assumed they were just really busy. But I was sat in bed breastfeeding my daughter when I realised they had enough time to remove my name from the website," she explained.

Ms Rees was eventually told she was being made redundant. After a discussion with her husband, Tom, Ms Rees decided not to fight the decision.

She could have taken her former employer to tribunal, but she says there is a three-month cut-off for making a claim.

"I didn't know what to do. I had lost my job and having a baby is the most expensive time of your life," she said.

Ms Rees, who has since had a second child, Danny, who is now one, said she struggled to find work.

Image copyright Sarah Rees
Image caption Sarah and her husband Tom (left) decided not to fight her employer's decision to make her redundant

After a brief spell self-employed, Ms Rees found the £100 a day cost for childcare too expensive and went back to being a full-time parent.

"I know so many women in senior positions who have told me that they had to make that choice," she added.

Ms Rees, who is now studying law to help people like her, believes parents should be entitled to share the burdens of parenthood and earning.

But she admits that the gender pay gap will continue to favour mums staying at home rather than dads.

Image copyright Sarah Rees
Image caption Sarah Rees will call on AMs to implement changes to allow parents to work flexible hours

A 2016 survey by the Equality and Human Rights Commission revealed that the employment rate for women with dependent children in Wales is 75% compared to 91% for men.

The same survey found 71% of mothers reporting negative or discriminatory experiences as a result of having children.

A Welsh assembly report published in July, entitled 'Work it Out', made several recommendations to combat the problems, including:

  • That the Welsh Government should advertise public sector jobs as 'flexible by default';
  • Organisations receiving public funding should provide flexible working;
  • And that changes should be made to the Welsh Government's new childcare offer.

Ms Rees joned a number of campaign groups, including Mother Pukka, Pregnant Then Screwed and A Mother's Place at the National Assembly of Wales on Thursday to call on Assembly Members to implement the report's recommendations.

The groups will also be staging a 'flash dance' protest outside the Capitol shopping centre on Queen Street, Cardiff, at midday on Friday.

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