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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 February 2007, 13:01 GMT
Mothers 'face job discrimination'
Female worker
Discrimination against women costs the UK 20bn, Trevor Phillips said
Women face ongoing discrimination in the workplace, a major review of inequality in the UK suggests.

A partnered mother with a child aged under 11 is 45% less likely to be in work than a partnered man, the Equalities Review says.

Chairman of the review, Trevor Phillips, said inequality still holds back too many individuals from realising their potential.

The review's final report proposes ten steps to make Britain more equal.

The report suggests women with young children face more discrimination in the workplace than disabled people or those from ethnic minorities.

It cites a survey of 122 recruitment agencies that revealed more than 70% of them had been asked by clients to avoid hiring pregnant women or those of childbearing age.

The report found disabled people were 29% less likely to be in employment than non-disabled people.

It also says other disadvantaged groups are Pakistani and Bangladeshi women who are 30% less likely to be in work than white women of similar ages and qualifications.

The commission must provide fresh thinking about the way we address violence against women
Liz Kelly, EVAW chairwoman

Mr Phillips, head of the new Commission for Equality and Human Rights (CEHR), told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Equality is not a minority zone - the majority of the people in this country are women and disadvantaged.

"Most of us will be older, many of us will become disabled and even if we are not of one race or another we may have a mixed race child. So these things concern us.

"The unemployment of women costs us about 28bn a year, the under-employment of disabled people about 9bn."

Mr Phillips believes inequality leads to lost tax revenue and increased benefit costs.

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The report recommends ten steps to greater equality, including a new framework to measure progress towards equality.

It also recommends public sector bodies tackle inequality in simpler but broader ways and with more sophisticated enforcement regime.

Chairwoman of the End Violence Against Women (EVAW) campaign, Professor Liz Kelly, said women faced inequality through domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking.

Government achievements

She said: "The commission must provide fresh thinking about the way we address violence against women, shifting the current approach of mopping up to one of preventing violence happening in the first place."

Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly said the government had made strides in helping women balance work and family life.

"These include extended and better paid maternity leave, new paternity rights and the right to request flexible working," she said.

Business leaders have said they do not discriminate against any candidate.

Mike Cherry, from the Federation of Small Businesses, told BBC Radio Five Live his members already selected the most suitable candidate for the job.

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