Companies & Industries

Would You Hire a Pregnant Woman?


The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission saw a 14% increase in pregnancy-discrimination complaints last year

Posted on Conversation Starter: April 25, 2008 8:33 AM

Would you hire a pregnant woman?

If you're British and said yes, then you're decidedly in the minority among your peers. A recent survey by the UK-based Employment Law Advisory Services (ELAS) found that only 5% of managers would offer a job to a pregnant candidate. Fifty-two percent said that when making a hire, they assessed the likelihood of a candidate's getting pregnant, taking into account her age and whether she had recently married.

On this side of the pond, last year the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission saw a 14% increase in pregnancy-discrimination complaints and received 20,400 pregnancy-bias inquiries at its newly established call center.

I understand managers wanting to avoid the costs and inconveniences of hiring someone who in several months' time will be on leave, whether for 12 weeks and unpaid—standard terms in almost all U.S. states for women who work for companies with more than 50 employees—or for much longer and at partial pay (UK law allows women to take up to 52 weeks, with some pay). But at the same time I wonder how many managers consider that, in passing over pregnant candidates, they might be missing out on long-term value in the form of intense employee loyalty?

The manager who hired me did so when I was eight months' pregnant, and my company treated my leave the same as anyone else's (paying me a certain percentage of my salary for a certain number of weeks), although it wasn't bound by law to do so.

The effect on me as an employee? I was in l-o-v-e: with the job, with my boss, with the organization. I worked at work, and then I went home and worked some more, wherever I could wedge it in: in the evening between feedings, on weekends, and during holidays. I even pulled a few all-nighters for big projects, compensating for the caffeine intake by giving my infant a bottle instead of nursing him at his next feeding. And rarely, if ever, did this feel burdensome. I was just paying my boss and my company back.

My story has a happy ending. What about yours? Please share your stories, from both sides of the interview table:

Have you ever passed over a candidate who was pregnant? Do you have regrets or do you think you made the right choice?

Did you ever hire a pregnant candidate against the subtle or not-so-subtle advice of colleagues?

Were you passed over for a job or promotion because of pregnancy?

Were you hired when you were obviously pregnant? What effect, if any, did that have on your workplace performance?

And the big one: Do you believe that different countries' maternity-leave laws affect whether pregnant women get hired in the first place?

Provided by Harvard Business—Where Leaders Get Their Edge

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