Young mums also reported being discriminated against when looking for jobs. 39 per cent of those that polling company Survation spoke to on behalf of the charity had been questioned in job interviews about how being a mother would affect their ability to work.
Young Women’s Trust’s research is further evidence that young mothers experience discrimination more frequently than older mums. Recent polling by the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the (then) Department for Business, Innovation and Skills found that six times more mums under 25 than the average reported being dismissed after informing their employer of their pregnancy. One in ten had left their employers as a result of related health and safety risks not being resolved. Twice as many young mums as mums of all ages felt under pressure to hand in their notice on becoming pregnant.
Tackling the discrimination young mums face is crucial to helping them find work, with most in the Young Women’s Trust survey ranking it as equal to or more important than childcare issues. 80 per cent said employers’ attitudes towards pregnant women or mothers with young children would play an important role in their search for work.
Additionally, the majority of young mothers surveyed said it was important for more jobs to be advertised with flexible hours (83 per cent) or part-time hours (81 per cent), so they could balance work with family commitments. 26 per cent, however, said they had had requests for flexible working related to their pregnancy or child turned down.
Despite the impact having children has had on their ability to find or retain jobs, young mums reported that motherhood had equipped them with skills that are valuable to employers. 60 per cent said their time management skills had improved since becoming a mother and 54 per cent had gained better communication skills. Budgeting skills, people skills and motivation to work also improved substantially.
Sophie Kathir said of her experience of trying to find work: “As a young mother, I never thought looking for work would be so hard. In my first interview after university I said that one of my achievements was studying while caring for a baby. As soon as I mentioned my child, the atmosphere changed. After a few brisk questions, it was over. I knew I wasn’t going to get the job even before I receive the call the next day. The interviewer said I was the perfect candidate but I had “too much baggage” to undertake such a demanding job. I knew exactly what they meant by “baggage”. It took me nine months to get my first proper job and I didn’t mentioned my kids in any other interviews. It made me feel guilty to have to hide such a beautiful thing but I needed to get a job.”
Young Women’s Trust chief executive Dr Carole Easton OBE said: “The level of discrimination that Young Women’s Trust has uncovered against young mothers who are in work or looking for jobs is shocking.
“It is in everyone’s interest to help young mothers who want to work. As our findings show, young mothers have a huge amount to contribute to their workplaces and many want to be financially independent and support their families. Tackling discrimination would benefit mums, businesses and the economy as a whole.
“Employers should value young mothers’ contributions to their workplaces and do more to accommodate them, including by offering more flexible and part-time working opportunities.