A report recently published by the Women and Equalities Committee has indicated a ‘shocking’ increase in workplace pregnancy and maternity discrimination. The report follows a study conducted by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
Some of the figures that have emerged from the research include:
- The number of expectant and new mothers forced to leave their jobs because of health and safety concerns or discrimination has almost doubled since 2005;
- 11% of women reported being either dismissed, made redundant when others in their workplace were not, or treated so poorly they felt they had to leave their job.
With a record number of women currently in employment in the UK, the committee claims that the government’s current approach to protecting pregnant and new mothers ‘lacks urgency and bite’.
The committee have made a number of recommendations for the government to consider which include:
- Providing protection against redundancy until six months after a return to work. The committee gives the example of Germany where from the start of pregnancy until four months after childbirth employers can only dismiss an employee in exceptional circumstances and with prior approval of the relevant public authority (e.g. business shut-down);
- Increased health and safety protection including an obligation on employers to undertake an individual risk assessment when they are told an employee is pregnant, has given birth in the past six months or is breastfeeding;
- Review of the pregnancy and maternity related rights available to casual, agency and zero-hours workers, including giving them the right to paid time off for antenatal appointments;
- An assurance that existing rights and protections will not be eroded following the Brexit vote;
- A ‘substantial reduction’ in the £1,200 tribunal fee bringing pregnancy and maternity discrimination claims;
- Review of the three-month limit for taking cases to an employment tribunal.
Business Minister Margot James has said that the government will consider the recommendations and respond ‘in due course’.