The Council of Mortgage Lenders and the Building Societies Association will produce guidance for lenders to ensure they are not treating pregnant women or women on maternity unfairly when they apply for a mortgage.
The trade bodies will publish their guidance by the end of the year and it will include guidance on “permissible areas of inquiry” and issues for consideration in relation to mortgage applications from these borrowers.
Both trade bodies will also deliver guidance for consumer on what they should expect to be asked as part of the application process and what should be asked.
The pledge to form guidance comes after a Government report into lending to women, called “Banking on Women”, which was commissioned by the Deputy Prime Minster in 2011. the report claims that over three quarters – 77 per cent – of women return to work within 12-18 months of having a child.
This followed a review of evidence by Professor Noreena Hertz, which suggested it was “very likely” that discrimination was happening in business lending by banks to women and in mortgage lending to women who were pregnant or on maternity leave.
However, the report from the Government Equality Office did not find “evidence of a systemic problem” but said: “An absence of evidence does not mean that we can say there is no discrimination; rather, there has been little research into this aspect of mortgage lending.”.
It also said there is a long-standing perception that banks discriminate against women, which could act as a deterrent for women in accessing finance from banks.
Minister for Women and equalities Jo Swinson says: “We believe there is scope for improvement with lenders thinking through much more than perhaps they have up to now how they deal with mortgage applications from women who are pregnant or on maternity leave.
”I am pleased that the Council for Mortgage Lenders and the Building Societies Association have suggested actions to address this.”
BSA head of mortgage policy Paul Broadhead says: “It is clear that we are dealing with perception here but there is still no room for complacency, particularly in the run up to the implementation of the new mortgage rules from the Financial Conduct Authority. These will see lenders having to ask many more questions of all mortgage applicants to ensure loans are affordable.”
A CML spokesman says: ”We welcome the report because even though gender discrimination in financial services is something of a myth, the perception of it is important to address. It is also important not to mistake responsible lending for discrimination.
“Both men and women should expect their lender to assess their circumstances carefully to enable them to make good, sustainable lending decisions.”