New maternity laws are preventing women from getting the jobs they want because employers think twice about hiring them.
Citrix Online, the survey authors, found that discrimination was particularly rife amongst the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
On 1 April 2007 women were granted an extension to maternity leave from six to nine paid months whilst the qualifying criteria allowing mums to take a total 12 months out of the workplace was removed meaning all mothers regardless of length of service can take a year.
Worryingly, 34 per cent of respondents admitted they weren’t aware of the changes. According to the survey authors, 30 per cent said it would be harder to retain talented women in the workforce, with a quarter believing that the latest changes would have a commercially negative impact.
On the positive side, 72 per cent felt that the new regulations will cause the more progressive companies to adopt additional flexible working practices to help working mothers manage the demands of work and family. Currently, 78 per cent of employers allow staff to take a day’s holiday at very short notice and 64 per cent offer the option to adjust start and finish time. However, just 18 per cent offer formal flexitime and only 11 per cent operate job sharing initiatives.
Only 43 per cent of SMEs have any technologies in place to support home working, compared to 76 per cent of bigger companies. Simon Presswell, managing director, EMEA, Citrix Online said that the lack of upfront investment in technology or IT expertise is hampering the progress of working mothers. He said that the ability to use a home PC to work on a regular or ad-hoc basis helped to accommodate the additional pressures of being a parent.
Presswell concluded by saying that the perception that hiring women can be detrimental to a business is untrue: "A recent study published by The Women and Work Commission asserts that if women’s participation in the labour market is increased, it could be worth up to £23 billion, or 2.0 per cent, of GDP."