Young mums ‘ask the midwife’ in new #PowertotheBump video

Published: 28 Nov 2016

#PowertotheBump is back with a new video, answering the questions young expectant mothers say are worrying them about their health and wellbeing at work

Research by the Equality and Human Rights Commission showed that more than one in five mothers under 25 years old experienced a negative impact on their health and stress levels whilst pregnant due to their experiences at work. The Commission has developed a second stage of the digital campaign, with the Royal College of Midwives, to highlight the important link between workplace rights for pregnant employees and ensuring they have healthy pregnancies.

It aims to help young pregnant women and new mothers know their rights at work and have the confidence to use them, ultimately reducing pregnancy and maternity discrimination.

Featuring Cathy Warwick CBE, Chief Executive of the Royal College of Midwives, the ‘ask the midwife’ video provides advice to expectant mothers on issues including how to tell your employer you’re pregnant, your right to attend antenatal appointments and how to reduce stress during pregnancy.

All the questions were provided by young mothers through the Young Women’s Trust and Young Mums Together, part of the Mental Health Foundation. It will be used by the Royal College of Midwives to inform young mothers via Facebook.

Caroline Waters, Deputy Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission said:

“Pregnancy can be a stressful time for many expectant mothers. For young mothers the impact is even greater, with twice as many under 25s reporting feeling under pressure to hand their notice in on becoming pregnant. It’s unsurprising and entirely unacceptable that young pregnant women experiencing poor treatment at work also see effects on their physical and mental health.

“By working with the Royal College of Midwives we hope all young mothers will understand their entitlements and work with their employer to reduce stress and to create the safe working conditions they need to ensure that they are not forced to give up their jobs as a result of unresolved health and safety risks."

#PowertotheBump was launched after the Commission’s research showed young mothers are significantly more likely to experience pregnancy and maternity discrimination, with six times as many under 25 year olds than average reporting being dismissed for their jobs after they tell their employers they are pregnant.

It also found:

  • Twice as many mothers under 25 (15%) reported feeling under pressure to hand their notice in on becoming pregnant (7% average)
  • One in 10 mothers under 25 (10%) reported they left their employers as a result of health and safety risks not being resolved (4% average)

Cathy Warwick CBE, Chief Executive of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) said:

“The RCM is proud to once again work with the Equality and Human Rights Commission to highlight and tackle maternity discrimination in the workplace.

“It is vital young women know their rights in the workplace when they become pregnant. Women who miss antenatal appointments miss out on essential screening tests and valuable advice around smoking and nutrition.

“Discrimination at work can cause stress, anxiety and depression which can potentially have an impact on the health of the woman and her baby.

“We hope that this new video will provide the answers to some questions raised by young pregnant women surrounding their employment rights and also give them the confidence to ask their employer the right questions that will hopefully prevent them from experiencing undue stress and worry.”

Dr Carole Easton, Chief Executive of Young Women’s Trust, said:

“Discrimination against women at work is an endemic problem that affects their health and long-term prospects. In a recent Young Women’s Trust survey, 72% of young women said they and their peers face workplace discrimination. Young mums in particular are still unfairly dismissed or treated poorly. Many are afraid of speaking out for fear of losing their job.

“Helping women to know their rights is a great first step in fighting this discrimination and making our workplaces more equal. We hope the #PowertotheBump campaign helps more women to speak out.

“Employers too must take steps to prevent discrimination, as well as to make it easier for men to share parental leave with their partners without feeling stigmatised for doing so.”

Katrina Jenkins, Programme Manager at Young Mums Together, said:

“The Young Mums Together programme, delivered by the Mental Health Foundation, provides young parents with access to peer support and helpful information, which enhance resilience and wellbeing.

“Young motherhood comes with many significant life changes, including disruption to career plans. By having accurate information in pregnancy and access to peer support, young mothers are empowered to focus on their wellbeing in pregnancy as paramount.”

#PowertotheBump top tips for young mothers

  1. Talk to your boss early
  2. Use your right to reasonable time off for antenatal appointments
  3. Plan your maternity leave early
  4. Always talk to your employer about health and safety to make sure your work environment is risk and stress free
  5. Reduce your stress

Top 5 tips in full

Notes to editors

For more press information and interviews contact the Commission’s media office on 0161 829 8102, out of office hours 07767 272 818.

Visit the #PowertotheBump homepage for more information, advice and guidance.

You can also view the video on the Royal College of Midwives Facebook page.

Further information

#PowertotheBump is one element of the Commission’s wider comprehensive strategy to address pregnancy and maternity discrimination at work.

To promote good practice, the Commission is working with leading British businesses that are spearheading a new coalition called Working Forward. The coalition aims to inspire and support other organisations by sharing their knowledge, experience and good practice, as well as highlighting the economic benefits they get from retaining the talent and experience of their female employees.

Find out more about Working Forward

The Commission also recommends a review of access to justice for women who have experienced pregnancy or maternity discrimination. The government is called upon to extend the time limit for making an employment tribunal claim to 6 months for cases relating to pregnancy and maternity and to ensure that fees are not a barrier to women taking cases. 

Read our research and recommendations

Press contact details

For more press information contact the Commission's media office on:

0161 829 8102