The Government needs to do more to challenge the negative attitudes towards maternity rights at work and to protect pregnant women’s health and safety at work, says a leading maternity campaign organisation.
Maternity Action is calling on the Government to take action on pregnancy discrimination at work at a Parliamentary event jointly organised with Kate Green MP today.
Recent Government research from the Equality and Human Rights Commission has found that 54,000 women lose their jobs each year because of pregnancy discrimination, 100,000 women experience harassment or negative comments and 53,000 are discouraged from attending antenatal appointments.
Jo Swinson, chair of Maternity Action, said: “It is simply unacceptable for one in nine pregnant women to be sacked or forced out of work because they become pregnant or take maternity leave. This means 54,000 women each year are losing their job because of unlawful discrimination by their employers.
“Women should have a safe and secure working environment when they become pregnant. Instead, many women are fighting to keep their jobs at a time when they are most vulnerable.
“It is up to Government to challenge the negative attitudes towards maternity rights at work which are common amongst employers and the wider community. These rights protect the health of mothers and babies, enable families to balance their budgets and help reduce gender inequalities.”
She added: “Pregnant women report problems negotiating a safe working environment, and 4% of pregnant women leave their jobs for this reason. We need to fundamentally rethink our approach to health and safety administration to give women a simple, swift and inexpensive means of resolving problems when they arise.
Department for Business, Innovation & Skills minister Nick Boles is to be questioned on the Government’s commitment to tackling pregnancy and maternity discrimination by the Women and Equalities Committee today. The Committee is also hearing from the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
Committee Chair Maria Miller said: “The initial research findings [from the EHRC] were published nearly a year ago. The delay in the Government’s response does not inspire confidence in its commitment to change. We want to know what concrete action the Government is taking to ensure that this discrimination does not continue.”