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Workingmums.co.uk is backing a campaign to increase the time limit to take a case of pregnancy and maternity discrimination to tribunal.
The campaign has been launched by pressure group Pregnant Then Screwed and a team of law students from Warwick University. The current law states that from the point of discrimination a victim has three months less one day to raise a tribunal claim. Despite the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the Women and Equalities Select Committee recommending that this time limit be increased to six months, the Government said there is no evidence to substantiate the claim that the time limit is problematic.
The #Givemesix campaign will run for six months. It will be an online petition that will be presented to Greg Clark MP and will collect and release stories from women who have been unable to access justice due to the three-month time limit.
Last year, the Equality and Human Rights Commission found that 54,000 women a year lose their jobs as a direct consequence of maternity or pregnancy discrimination and 77% of working mums endure negative or discriminatory treatment at work. Yet the EHRC says fewer than 1% raise a Tribunal claim. The law is very clear that discrimination is illegal, but the majority of pregnant women and new mums have limited access to justice. Campaigners say this is due to a lack of free legal advice, the high cost of bringing a claim and the restrictive time limit of three months.
The number of mums who lose their jobs for getting pregnant has almost doubled in 10 years. Far from improving, the situation has drastically deteriorated and significant numbers of women are being affected, say campaigners. With most women being unable to access justice, they argue that it is likely we will see further increases in pregnancy or maternity discrimination.
Joeli Brearley, founder of Pregnant Then Screwed said: “There is clear evidence that shows the negative impact stress can have on the health of an unborn child. The prospect of an employment tribunals can add to this, at a time when women are at their most vulnerable. In some cases pregnant women are advised by their doctor to avoid stress. For postpartum women they are dealing with sleepless nights and many are also challenged by issues with their mental or physical health. In both cases a mother’s priority is likely to be her child, as it should be, mothers should not be forced to make a choice between the health of themselves and their child and justice. Increasing the time limit to bring a case to tribunal to six months brings it in line with other worker’s rights legislation and we encourage everyone to sign the online petition to help protect women’s rights at work.”
Mina, one of the students from Warwick University, said: ‘’Mothers in the UK are a hugely important part of our society and they deserve access to justice.”
Workingmums.co.uk receives a large number of emails from women who have potentially faced pregnancy and maternity discrimination. One woman teacher wrote to Workingmums.co.uk recently. She taught statemented pupils, but was initially not given a risk assessment when she announced she was pregnant. She suffered badly with morning sickness, which the school knew. Her teaching assistant was withdrawn for her room, leaving her “trapped in the classroom”. She had no choice but to be sick in bins in the classroom because she could not leave her vulnerable pupils unattended.
Eventually a risk assessment was done, but the outcome never implemented. She took time off due to pre-natal anxiety and on her return the support promised still did not materialise. She became more anxious and started suffering panic attacks. She then contracted a urinary tract infection following a lesson in which no support was provided and she could not leave the room to access the toilet. She subsequently had a nervous breakdown and was signed off work for the remainder of her pregnancy. She wrote: “I then had to receive counselling for the duration of my pregnancy and the two months following it. I am now on maternity leave, and although I’m largely better, the panic attacks return whenever I think about returning to the classroom. I feel I have no option but to resign, due to the way this situation has impacted on me. I have been told that there is nothing I can do given that my baby was unharmed.”
To sign the Givemesix petition, click here. You can follow the campaign at #Givemesix