One in six UK workers who were made redundant in the last year believe they were unfairly selected for being a parent, new research has found.
The study, which was commissioned by employment law specialists Slater and Gordon, found that a further one in ten believe that they were targeted for being pregnant, or because bosses thought they intended to start a family.
While the law firm noted that these are all unlawful reasons to select an employee for redundancy, a shocking 33% noted that bosses ‘shamelessly confirmed’ that their status as a parent was the driving factor in the decision to make them redundant.
Under the 2010 Equality Act, dismissing a worker based on a protected characteristic, such as being pregnant, age, race or sex, is considered discrimination.
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Ruby Dinsmore, Employment Lawyer at Slater and Gordon, explained: “When a group of staff are ‘at risk’ of redundancy, but some positions remain, the employer must carry out a fair and objective selection process to decide who stays and who goes.”
“This must be non-discriminatory. A person’s sex, age, race or health should not be used as part of this selection process.
“Any employer who selects a woman because she has childcare responsibilities is acting unlawfully as this is likely to constitute indirect sex discrimination,” the legal expert added.
Whilst the redundancy process requires employers and HR to adhere to strict protocols, 74% of survey respondents who were made redundant questioned the legality of either their own or their colleagues’ dismissal but felt they couldn’t challenge the decision.
Working parents said that before redundancies took place they already felt ‘singled out’ and treated differently for having kids.
In fact, two in five said they felt their boss had pressured them to choose between being a parent and completing their role.
How can HR support working parents?
With schools currently closed and the majority of professionals working remotely due to the third national lockdown, many working parents are struggling to balance work and childcare and homsechooling responsibilities.
To help with this, allowing workers to operate on a flexible schedule that takes into account the needs of their families will aid workers in balancing working life and home life.
Some may request to work reduced hours to ensure that they are capable of homeschooling children, and HR is encouraged to allow as much flexibility and bandwidth to working parents as possible, whilst ensuring regular communication takes place to adjust as necessary.
Previously, Vicki Field, an Independent HR Practitioner, told HR Grapevine: “Most people want to feel that they are succeeding at their jobs, and now we have the additional pressure of needing to feel that our children aren’t suffering academically because of these circumstances.