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BBC drama exposes plight of maternity returners

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Women are still being sidelined and undermined on returning to work after having a baby, says employee well-being provider ICAS.

ICAS made the comments following the BBC’s one-off drama, “Sex, the City and Me”, aired last Sunday, that highlighted the very real plight of mums who return to the workplace following maternity leave, only to find they are subjected to unfair treatment.

The drama told the story of a high-flying city trader who is sidelined by her boss when she returns from maternity leave and goes on to sue the bank. According to the BBC, the drama was inspired by interviews with women who have fought major cases in the City of London.

ICAS say the drama exposed what is happening in many workplaces but says that the trend is gradually improving.

Jennifer Liston-Smith of ICAS, in partnership with Managing Maternity Ltd, said that women who go on maternity leave need guidance on what to do if they start experiencing problems at work.

“Some women have told us they found the sidelining and undermining comments almost unbearable on returning to work. They sometimes simply put up with it to avoid drawing attention to themselves because they may already have doubts about their own ability to re-enter the world of work and hit the ground running.”

According to Liston-Smith, the problems are more pronounced in sectors where the culture tends to be ‘macho’ with few women making it to senior levels, but says that things are changing and, where litigation occurs, ICAS says this is simply a symptom of a lack of dialogue and preparation.

The advice ICAS gives to employers includes encouraging more of a dialogue throughout the maternity process, including helping the woman to involve herself more in the planning of her impending maternity leave and return to work.

Employers can also help ensure women have things like performance appraisals organised, that networking contacts are strengthened before going on maternity leave, and that contact is maintained whilst on leave.

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Annie Hayes

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