A Government initiative geared at clamping down on discrimination against women in the workplace is calling on UK employers to offer more support to female staff during and after pregnancy.

The news comes after a study published last week by the Centre for Economic Performance found that an increasing number of UK mothers were ‘forced out of work’ following the birth of their second child.

According to Government statistics, approximately one in nine working mothers, or 54,000 women, feel ‘forced’ to quit their jobs every year.

Furthermore, separate research from the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) found that 70 per cent of employers thought that female job candidates ‘should declare pregnancy’ as early as interview stage.

A further 25 per cent of employers told the EHRC that they felt it was ‘acceptable’ to discuss future parenting plans with potential candidates prior to offering employment.

Following the research, the Government is calling on employers across the country to take “a more progressive approach” towards the treatment of female staff – by offering private breastfeeding spaces in the workplace, allowing mothers to feed their new-born children at work where possible, and providing appropriate facilities for the storage of milk.

Julia Waltham, head of policy and campaigns at charity, Working Families, said: “The Government encourages breastfeeding and recommends that employers enable women to breastfeed at work as a matter of best practice.

“We speak to mothers every day who find themselves subject to harassment, exclusion and negative comments when they return to work after maternity leave.

“When women are forced out of work it’s a dreadful waste of skills and talents that this country needs”.

Margot James, the minister for small business, consumer protection and corporate social responsibility, added: “Pregnancy and maternity-related discrimination is unacceptable and unlawful and has no place in today’s society”.