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Seventeen women’s organisations, parenting groups, health organisations law firms and unions have written to Business Secretary Vince Cable requesting swift implementation of the ‘Women in the Workplace’ report recommendations to combat pregnancy discrimination.
The report by the Select Committee on Business, Innovation and Skills recommends the removal of employment tribunal fees for pregnancy discrimination cases due to fears the fees will deter women with well-founded discrimination claims from taking action in the tribunal.
It also recommends the reinstatement of the questionnaire procedure in discrimination cases and calls on the Government to collect data on pregnancy discrimination in order to monitor its incidence.
The letter, signed by organisations including Maternity Action and the Fawcett Society, calls on the Government to defend attacks on maternity rights “to combat the perception that pregnancy discrimination is acceptable business practice”.
It states: “Pregnancy discrimination has a serious impact on women and their families and there is evidence that the problem is growing. In 2005, the Equal Opportunities Commission found that 30 000 women each year lost their jobs as a result of pregnancy discrimination. Of these women, 45% did nothing as they were unaware of their rights. The Maternity and Paternity Rights and Women Returners Survey 2009-10 found that only 82% of women who gave birth in 2008 reported that they had been treated fairly during their pregnancy, dropping from 89% in the 2006 survey. As many women are unaware of their rights, these figures are likely to substantially underestimate the magnitude of the problem.”