By Daniel Hunter

Businesses are not doing enough to support expecting first-time mums in junior positions, according to AXA PPP healthcare and Netmums.

The joint study found that 59% of those who were in junior positions when they had their first child said that their employer hadn’t provided any support beyond what was legally required in the run up to their maternity leave.

But for women in senior positions, that figure dropped to 21%.

Less than a quarter (23%) of entry level employees were offered ‘keeping in touch days’ during their maternity leave. But this number doubled for management level staff (46%) and senior executives (54%). Only 19% of entry level workers were given advice about going on maternity leave compared with nearly a third (30%) of management level employees.

The research also suggested that the lack of support leads to increase stress levels after the birth. Nearly half (45%) of junior workers said they felt stressed after the birth of the child, compared with just 23% of senior executives.

According to a recently published [nurl=]report commissioned by Maternal Mental Health Alliance, between 10% and 20% of women develop a mental illness during pregnancy or within the first year after having a baby.

“These illnesses can have a devastating impact on women and their families if left untreated,” said Dr Mark Winwood, director of psychological services for AXA PPP healthcare.

Dr Winwood said: “The perceived disparity in the support employers offer to first time mums before they go on maternity leave is alarming — particularly when you consider the impact this may have on the individual’s mental health. Indeed, this ‘ambivalence of worth’ by employers could be contributing to significant self-esteem issues for some mums to be.

“Employers would be wise to ensure they support all of their employees equally at this transformative time in their lives and careers. They should also remember their legal duty of care to ensure that they conduct an appropriate and regular risk assessment process for all employees who notify them of their pregnancy to ensure that they are offered suitable support and workplace adjustments to help them remain safe at work — irrespective of their position within the organisation.

“Helping employees to prepare for their maternity leave, and supporting them during their time away from work, can help them feel more positive about coming back to work once they are ready. For example, offering ‘keeping in touch’ days during maternity leave can help to ensure that new mums still feel part of the working community, encouraging them to return to work, bringing their wide ranging skills with them!”