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by Louise Deverell-Smith

A Chat With The Founder of Pregnant Then Screwed

On the blog today, we are really thrilled to have spoken to Pregnant Then Screwed founder, Joeli Brearley who shares with us her experiences, insights, frustrations and thoughts on the current state of affairs. 

What are the most common issues women come to you with? 

Women get in touch with us for so many different reasons. In the main it is discrimination – women who have been sacked, made redundant, demoted, bullies or harassed all because they dared to procreate. We obviously support many women who are desperately trying to secure flexible working from their employer and those who have had to leave as a result of being unsuccessful. Sadly, we also hear from mums who have a variety of other challenges that can be unrelated to discrimination but are just a result of a society that doesn’t invest in mums.

Do you think the UK’s focus is lacking on the recent gender pay gap report findings and the fact that hardly anything has changed? 

That’s a big question. I wasn’t surprised that the gender pay gap had barely changed over the last year. The gender pay gap is about deeply entrenched gender stereotypes and a labour market that doesn’t work for active parents, we won’t solve that in a year. What frustrated me far more was seeing that though the pay gap had very marginally reduced, the bonus gap had drastically increased. Employers thought they could pull the wool over our eyes by slipping men wedges of cash that aren’t part of their annual salary.

What do you think are the biggest roadblocks currently preventing parents from applying for, and getting, shared parental leave?

Shared Parental Leave is fundamentally flawed for many reasons: It doesn’t work for the self-employed (15% of all workers), you have to have been in continuous employment with the same employer for at least 26 weeks, it is so complex that even our legal team struggle to understand it at points, and overall it means that a family are more likely to lose money if they use it. 

It actually isn’t shared parental leave at all, it is shared maternity leave so a mother has to give up a portion of her leave entitlement so that the father can use it. What we need is ring-fenced, properly paid paternity leave. Other countries have demonstrated that if you do this then you will enormously increase the number of dads taking time out to care for their children – Quebec, Sweden, Norway, Denmark – these are all countries that offer this and over 70% of dads access it, compared to the 2% that can make it work in this country.

I find it incredibly frustrating that the Government is spending thousands of pounds promoting a scheme that just doesn’t work and are making out that the problem is that people don’t know about it – NO THE PROBLEM IS THAT YOU HAVE SET IT UP IN A WAY THAT DOESN’T WORK FOR FAMILIES.

What are the government doing to help pregnant working women currently and what is the most important single thing do you feel needs to be done? 

The government is doing nothing. It is paying lip service to the problem and creating consultations which are just hot air. We set up this doom clock to show how many women have lost their jobs due to pregnancy or maternity since the Equality and Human Rights Commission released their report into the problem –

To make the workplace work for women we need radical change. We are campaigning for:

  • Free childcare from the age of 9 months old, with childcare workers paid the same as teachers
  • Fathers to have access to 6 weeks ring fenced leave at 90% of their salary
  • All job adverts to include flexible working options
  • Companies to report on how many of their staff work flexibly
  • Increase the time limit to raise a tribunal claim from 3 months to (at least) 6 months
  • Establish a body to which women can report the abhorrent use of Non Disclosure Agreements. This body must have the jurisdiction to investigate and act

Making changes in isolation doesn’t achieve a huge amount but if I were to pick one change that is easy to make and would make a difference, it would be to increase the time limit to raise a tribunal claim. Three months is nowhere near long enough and it is part of the reason that fewer than 1% of women who experience discrimination even raise a tribunal claim. We need to tackle women’s access to justice.

For more information on the empowering Joeli and Pregnant Then Screwed, please go to:

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