Call for stronger protections for new mothers

Pregnant women and new mothers should only be made redundant in limited circumstances, according to a new campaign launched today.

Maternity Action’s campaign is backed up by a report on unfair redundancies amongst pregnant women and new mothers which calls for a radical rethink of legal protections for women.

Maternity Action says the campaign is a reaction to “the Government’s failure to act on its commitment to review redundancy protections”, made in response to the Women and Equalities Select Committee inquiry into pregnancy and maternity-related discrimination.

Rosalind Bragg, Director of Maternity Action said: “One in every 20 new mothers in the workplace will be made redundant during pregnancy, maternity leave or the months after returning to work.  Some of these redundancies are discriminatory, many are completely unfair.

“The current legal framework is not protecting women from unfair treatment.  Women are being forced out of their jobs by redundancies which are not genuine and by discriminatory selection processes.  Women who have challenged bad practice by their employers are at particular risk.

“We are calling for the UK to adopt the German model of redundancy protection for new mothers.  Women should not be made redundant, except in limited circumstances, from notification of their pregnancy through to six months after return to work.”

The German model only allows for redundancies for pregnant and new mothers [the first six months after return to work] in exceptional circumstances, such as the closure of business. Maternity Action says any new protections should also cover fathers and partners taking paternity leave, shared parental leave and parental leave during the pregnancy and the child’s first year.

The report also calls on the Government to work with employers to encourage them to evaluate the retention rate for women one year after returning to work following maternity leave, as part of the gender pay gap analysis. It adds that in recognition of the very low proportion of pregnant women and new mothers who take action to resolve problems at work, the time limits for these women to pursue a claim should be extended to six months and it calls for better quality information on redundancy rights and better signposting by government to advice and information on employment rights.

Bragg added: “Pregnancy and new motherhood places significant demands on women’s physical and mental health, their time and financial resources.  Few women take legal action on discrimination, even when they have a very strong case.

“On our advice line, we regularly speak to women who are facing unfair redundancy.  At a time when they should be enjoying their new baby, these women are dealing with stressful negotiation processes and are seriously worried about their finances.”

*Meanwhile, party leaders have agreed a new  grievance procedure for House of Commons staff. The new procedure will provide face-to-face support for staff from human resources professionals and an independent grievance process. It include contract and agency workers on the parliamentary estate and is designed to ensure that staff, who are usually employed directly by MPs, do not have to report concerns to people who may be both their employers and their abusers. Theresa May said the new system would be in place by the new year.

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