Give pregnant women greater job protection say MPs

family life

There has been a sharp in illegal discrimination against pregnant women, MPs have claimed.

The parliamentary Women and Equalities Committee says the number of female employees forced out of their jobs after falling pregnant or becoming mothers has nearly doubled since 2005, to 54,000. 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 a newly published report, the Committee suggests a system similar to the one in Germany as a means to tackle the issue. There employers are subject to stringent rules which mean they cannot dismiss employees from the beginning of their pregnancies until four months after the birth in all but exceptional circumstances such as the company entering administration. In the UK, by contrast, while it also illegal to overtly dismiss a woman for pregnancy they can be dismissed for other reasons.

The Commons Select Committee called on the government to take action.

“Shockingly, pregnant women and mothers report more discrimination and poor treatment at work now than they did a decade ago. With record numbers of women in work in 2016, the situation is likely to decline further unless it is tackled effectively now. Urgent action and leadership is needed, but the approach that the Government is taking forward lacks urgency and bite.”

Conservative MP Maria Miller is Chair of the Committee. She predicted damage to the economy if discrimination against mothers was allowed to continue.

“The economy will suffer unless employers modernise their workplace practices to ensure effective support and protection for expectant and new mums.”

Amongst the recommendations made are measures to make taking allegations of discrimination to an employment tribunal easier, including a reduction in the court fees payable and an increase in the current time limit to six months. 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.

Business Minister Margot James said the government would treat the issues raised by the Committee as a priority.

“It is completely unacceptable that pregnant women and new mothers are apparently being forced to quit their jobs because of outdated attitudes. Tackling this issue is a key priority of mine and this government and I would like to thank the committee for its important work. We will consider its recommendations carefully and respond in due course.”

Read more here.

Stowe Family Law Web Team

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Andrew - August 31, 2016 at 3:54pm

Much of this is unexceptionable but one point is highly dangerous. In most employment in the case of redundancy the rule is LIFO – Last In First Out – and the courts have long since held that that rule is lawful even if a lot of the more junior staff are women – of course a maternity break does not interrupt seniority. The leading case concerned a council which if you read between the lines had probably been giving an unlawful preference to women for craft posts – and when the axe had to fall it was the recently qualified (not apprentices who have special protection but “improvers”) who had to be first out and many of them were women.
It would be preposterous and discriminatory if a women on maternity leave kept her job in preference to a longer serving man or indeed woman. Does anyone disagree and why?
I wonder how much experience of running a business this committee of MP’s have between them!

spinner - August 31, 2016 at 4:28pm

Where I used to work a female employee became pregnant and then took the generous maternity leave which may have been over a year and then came back to work for three months and then got pregnant again and did the same thing and then came back to work for a few months and resigned. So all in all she was off work and paid for years and we were a person down on our team with the same budget to do the same job so we had to in effect cover for her over those years and in the end the company itself got nothing as she choose to leave. The company was a multinational but if that had happened in a small company it may well have sunk it but it’s not discrimination it’s just survival and common sense not to employ women of a certain age.

Andrew - August 31, 2016 at 6:03pm

Of course it is illegal discrimination but it’s always possible to find a plausible reason not to employ any individual!
This is one area where I can see Brexit making a difference; the government might introduce what is called in the jargon “swing wing” rights where your rights depend on the size of the business. Or in some versions the size of the particular workplace. The most obvious candidate for that is the right to keep your job when you are away for months at a time.
It could be worse. In the German public sector before Mutti changed things a mother could reclaim her job ten years after leaving it. And if for example she had been working for the City of Munich but had moved to Hamburg the City of Hamburg had to find her a job!
Nice for mothers. Not so good for anybody else wanting a job.

Yvie - August 31, 2016 at 11:28pm

Women in the workplace have it far easier now with many more rights. I am going back quite a few years, but the norm then for a pregnant mother was to hand in her notice and leave by the sixth month of pregnancy. There was no right of return to the job. If a mother wanted to return to work following the birth of her child, she had to find something suitable and apply for it along with everyone else.

Luke - September 13, 2016 at 6:32pm

You know what happens when you keep adding more and more costs onto companies that have to do that dirty little thing called making a profit (which we can tax) ?
They try and avoid those costs – i.e. hiring fewer women of child bearing age in this particular case.

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