Employment law expert Michael Newman has welcomed plans by leading businesses to form a new alliance to help tackle maternity and pregnancy discrimination.

A recent report on Pregnancy and Maternity Discrimination from the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee made clear that women are increasingly leaving work rather than face health and safety issues, or pregnancy discrimination.

The businesses, which include Barclays, Royal Mail and BT Group, are forming a coalition with the aim of eradicating discrimination from their businesses and they will also encourage businesses in their supply chain to do the same. The group plans to make the best use of their female work force by highlighting the economic benefits of retaining the talent and experience of their female employees. The campaign, Working Forward, has been launched by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).

David Isaac, chairman of the EHRC, said: "We can no longer accept women being unfairly treated at work because they are pregnant or on maternity leave. We are calling on employers to sign up to our initiative to commit to delivering equality and ensure working environments benefit everyone. Attracting, developing and retaining talent, regardless of gender, is absolutely critical for the UK economy and for our businesses.”

Michael Newman, of law firm Leigh Day, said: “I am delighted to hear that leading businesses are taking positive steps to tackle this issue which affects more than 300,000 pregnant women and new mothers each year.

“The recent Women and Equalities Committee report showed that incidents of pregnancy and maternity discrimination are on the rise, a clear sign that the current system is not working. I hope that this new initiative can not only halt this rise but have a real impact on eradicating this discrimination.

“Expectant mothers should not have the dilemma of wondering whether they will be able to return to work with the same opportunities as before they were pregnant, or whether childcare responsibilities are compatible with their career.

“Financial cost will always be an argument from businesses wanting to restrict these rights, but the real cost is in shutting women out from the workplace and putting significant barriers in the way of equal parenting.”