Rise in discrimination against pregnant women and new mothers

A parliamentary report called for better employment protections for mothers

MP's have today called for more "urgent action" after the latest Women and Equalities Committee report shows the true level of discrimination against women in the workplace.

The arrival of a new baby puts family finances under extreme pressure yet, despite this, thousands of expectant and new mothers have no choice but to leave their work because of concerns about the safety of their child or pregnancy discrimination. Although the right to statutory maternity leave and pay only applies to employees, the ERA 1996 does afford protection to a wider class of new and expectant mothers including these contracted workers and self-employed contractors.

The panel called on the government to publish a plan within the next two years to deal with discrimination. In addition, the report says women who work in casual and temporary positions, including zero hours contracts, also need protection when pregnant, including a defined right to attend antenatal appointments.

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In the United Kingdom, although it is illegal to dismiss a woman for reasons relating to having a child, a company can find other reasons for making her redundant. It needs to set out a detailed plan outlining the specific actions it will take to tackle this unacceptable level of discrimination. "This work must be underpinned by concrete targets and changes to laws and protections to increase compliance by employers to improve women's lives".

Last week there was a string of bad news for pregnant women and moms in the U.K. First, British charity Citizens Advice said women are increasingly concerned about discrimination related to maternity leave. In a poll conducted by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, 11 per cent of female employees said they had been pushed out by their employers through redundancy, dismissal or poor treatment after they became pregnant. In Germany, new and expectant mothers can only be made redundant under specified circumstances.

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Professor Caroline Gatrell from Lancaster University Management School, and an expert on parental discrimination in the workplace, said the findings of the WEC report were "not a surprise".

Pregnant women are increasingly being discriminated against at work, say MPs.

It also suggested a "substantial reduction" in the £1,200 fee for women taking a pregnancy-related discrimination case to an employment tribunal - and recommended the three-month limit on taking cases to a tribunal should be doubled to six months. We agree that it is preferable for workplace disputes to be resolved at the earliest possible stage and that tribunals should be a last resort.

Probably more shocking is the number of women who receive notification of redundancy just before their return to work with no warning or explanation.

Maria Miller commented: "We heard concerning evidence about the experiences of pregnant casual, agency and zero hours workers".