Campaign: QBO highlights pregnancy discrimination - Public Sector Comms

Campaign: Pregnant & Productive

Client: The Equal Opportunities Commission

PR team: In-house/QBO Bell Pottinger

Timescale: October 2004-February 2005

Budget: £65,000

According to latest research by the Equal Opportunities Commission, each year around 30,000 pregnant working women are sacked, made redundant or forced to leave their jobs. Last October, the commission hired QBO Bell Pottinger to raise awareness of the discrimination faced by pregnant women at work.


To raise public awareness of the scale of pregnancy discrimination by driving traffic to a specially designed campaign website and helpline.

Strategy and Plan

The team decided to concentrate activity on launch day, 2 February. QBO's first task was to design a micro-site for visitors to register their support for the rights of pregnant women in the workplace. Athlete Denise Lewis was hired to garner tabloid coverage because she had encountered discrimination from her coach while pregnant.

A press release revealing the commission's findings was sent to all newspapers, with a particular focus on broadsheets. Case studies and commission experts were made available to the media. A photocall featuring Lewis with other victims of discrimination was also set up.

The team attempted to create political momentum around pregnancy discrimination as an issue, engaging the cross-party support of MPs.

It used evidence from its investigation into the views and needs of employers, as well as pregnant women in the workplace, to lobby a range of government departments, targeting civil servants, special advisers and ministers.

QBO also distributed branded 'jelly baby' sweets at railway stations, with the tagline: 'These babies won't cost you your job or hit your pay packet. But for around 30,000 women, babies do just that.'

Measurement and Evaluation

Evaluation carried out by QBO revealed the campaign gained 169 regional and 34 national radio mentions. It was covered in 25 regional newspapers and 14 national newspapers, featured on 25 national TV items and appeared on 25 websites.

Magazine coverage so far includes Closer and Pride, which featured an interview with Lewis.

QBO account director Karen Tait says all coverage was positive, except for one piece in the Daily Mail. She explains: 'The Daily Mail comes from a perspective that (pregnant) women shouldn't work, but the piece was positive in terms of generating debate.'


In the week of the campaign, site achieved 2,528 hits and the press release was downloaded 1,354 times.

Unique visitors to the commission's website almost doubled during the first week after launch and there were 800 pledges of support online within two weeks.

The helpline received 123 enquiries within a week of launch and 37 callers agreed to be used as case studies for future campaigning.

An Early Day Motion on the issue was tabled and signed by 75 MPs and two written questions have been tabled in Parliament to press the Government on the issue. Women's minister Jacqui Smith also pledged her support.

Pride contributor Chrissa Amuah says: 'It was a good idea to use someone like Lewis who had experienced (pregnancy discrimination).'

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