Employing pregnant women

Recent recruit set out to create a new arm of our business informed us she was pregnant before the offer had been sent

Recent recruit set out to create a new arm of our business informed us she was pregnant before the offer had been sent. How did we react and what did we do?

We’d set out to recruit someone who had experience of building and running a recruitment business – the intention being that this would offer complimentary services to our existing 16 year old HR outsourcing business, myHRdept. We also felt that while there are many recruitment businesses already, most are not very good and we felt there was an opportunity to provide our clients, and indeed others, with a better standard of recruitment.

And so along came our ideal candidate Sunita Sandiford. She built a recruitment business before, sold it and continued to work for it part time while she brought up two young children, then the business structure changes and it was time for Sunita to move on.

We’d interviewed her, checked her references, set her some pre-appointment tasks and all was just fine and dandy. We hadn’t made the offer at the point Sunita’s email came in

“Dear Bill and Catherine, in the spirit of openness and trust I feel I should tell you that I have just found out that I am pregnant with my third child! I would understand completely if this changed things from your perspective….”

I have to admit, even with our deep understanding of employment law, our initial thoughts were along the lines of “oh damn.” Now while it would have been unlawful to have discounted her because she was pregnant, in practice it’s pretty easy to find another way to say no – more closely matched candidates have materialised etc. It happens, daily probably.

Once the initial surprise subsided we looked rationally at the situation. Her experience hadn’t changed, her skills as a recruiter were undamaged, she had still built a successful recruitment business, something we had not. The only thing that would change is maternity leave – in 7 or so months’ time.

In that context it was simple to make the decision to proceed with her appointment. We had always intended to fund the new recruitment business for an initial 6 months anyway and we were very clear that when recruiting Sunita we were appointing someone who could build a business, not simply recruiting a recruiter. Within 6 months we wanted Sunita to have her own recruiters in place and a pipeline of work, we wanted her focused on developing the business into specialist areas – HR and business support functions.

Effectively nothing has changed, apart from one thing Escalate recruitment services has been born….and in February we look forward to welcoming another birth too!

Employee’s perspective

Sunita Sandiford, Head of Recruitment at Escalate Recruitment, a business now in its second month, thought that she’d just lost what seemed like a perfect opportunity.

“I’d met Bill and spoken on the phone with Catherine and I was so excited. Having left my old company I had a few options, but having run my own business I didn’t really want to take any old recruitment job. I saw myHRdept’s advert to find someone to develop and run a recruitment business alongside the long established HR business and it seemed too good to be true.

And then, out of the blue, I realised I was pregnant. I knew I was under no obligation to tell myHRdept, but I wanted to, and if that meant the end of the road, so be it. Their reaction amazed me though, I went in to their office in Maidenhead for another meeting and within a few days the offer was on the table.

I started shortly afterwards and am now busy working on setting up the infrastructure for Escalate recruitment and am already working on vacancies for myHRdept’s clients. Catherine and Bill have been so supportive and everyone in the HR team has made me feel so welcome.


So it wasn’t for fear of employment litigation (which could result from the withdrawal of an offer on discovering the candidate’s pregnancy) that we’d pressed ahead with her appointment, it was for the very simple reason that, pregnant or not, she had the experience and attitude they wanted.

“In being open with us from the outset”, said Bill Larke, “we immediately felt that trust had been established – she must have known that in confiding in us prior to receiving an offer we could easily have found a reason to pull out of the deal – as so many other employers may have done. But she told us anyway and that was an honorable decision.

We already thought a great deal of her and at that point we wanted to think about how we could make things work rather than thinking of reasons why it wouldn’t. In telling us early the doors of communication about her pregnancy had been opened sooner rather than later meaning we could create a plan, to not only make sure her pregnancy was comfortable and safe but also from a business point of view we have more time to plan for the next stages of Escalate Recruitment’s development.”

About Bill: Bill left his corporate life as HR Director for Coca-Cola’s UK operations in 2000 to form HRR Solutions Ltd providing HR consultancy to companies such as BT, Cadbury, Office Depot, Bakkavor etc, Bill set up the first on-line HR system, myHRdept.co.uk, in 2002 to assist SMEs with their HR needs. He has extensive employee relations, trade union and consultation/change experience, is an expert on employment law and is an SHL certified assessor.

myHRdept is a standalone ‘HR department’ with 16 years’ experience of supporting SME businesses most of whom do not have their own internal HR team. We also support the internal HR teams of larger companies and are trusted by prestigious law firms and accountancy practices to provide HR support to their clients.

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