The Forum of Private Business (FPB) has claimed that family friendly regulations are leading to discrimination against women in the workplace.

An Equality Review this week revealed that a mother with a child under 11 years old is 45 per cent less likely to be employed than a man.

In response, the FPB has called for a return to common sense in the workplace if the government wants to reduce discrimination against women with young children.

Victoria Carson, FPB campaigns manager, said the government’s drive to improve employee rights has backfired: “The administrative burden and cost of employing mothers of young children is becoming a disincentive to employers to take them on,” she said. “The increasing drive from government to encourage greater flexibility in the workplace is leading to the breakdown of existing flexible relationships and increasing worries about tribunals and costs. As more and more regulations are introduced, so the extra administrative costs increase, both in terms of time spent form filling and time lost to more productive matters.”

She added that recent changes, such as those to maternity laws, would only make the situation worse.

“Small businesses are worried about the cost of covering the duties of new mothers. Little consideration has been given by the government to assessing the financial impact on smaller business of the extension of maternity leave to 52 weeks.

“Employers fear, particularly in the case of skilled workers, that they will be unable to find suitable cover and productivity and profitability will fall as the responsibilities of missing employees are shared out amongst the rest of the workforce.”