Report calls for immediate steps to reduce pregnancy and maternity discrimination

The number of women forced out of their jobs due to pregnancy and maternity discrimination has doubled since 2005, according to a new report by  Maternity Action.

The report cites the 2005 Equal Opportunities Commission report found that half of all pregnant women suffered a related disadvantage at work, and that each year 30,000 were forced out of their job. It calculates that pregnancy and maternity discrimination is “now more common than ever before” and that as many as 60,000 women are pushed out of work each year.

The report says that since 2010 Government measures, such as cutting free employment advice, plans to abolish the ‘questionnaire procedure’ in employment tribunal discrimination claims – which facilitates the revealing of crucial information held by the employer but otherwise not available to the claimant and the introduction of a fee of at least £1,200 to lodge a tribunal claim for pregnancy, maternity or other discrimination have made the situation for women much worse.

It welcomes the recent announcement of £1 million additional funding to enable the Equality & Human Rights Commission to undertake an in-depth study of the incidence of pregnancy and maternity discrimination, but says the study is unlikely to report for some time, quite possibly not until late 2014, leaving little if any time for action before the general election in May 2015.

It recommends the following steps be taken now to reduce discrimination:

– The Government should scrap – or at least reduce to a nominal level – the upfront fees for discrimination and other employment tribunal claims introduced in July 2013.

– The Government should abandon its planned abolition of the ‘questionnaire procedure’ in discrimination claims, which it says will save no public money.

– The Government should establish a process for publicly ‘naming and shaming’ employers found by a tribunal to have broken the law on pregnancy and maternity discrimination.

– The Government should take speedy and robust action to improve compliance with employment tribunal awards, to ensure that women awarded financial compensation for pregnancy or maternity discrimination by a tribunal receive the money due to them.

– The Government should match its funding of the new EHRC investigation into the extent of pregnancy and maternity discrimination with funding for a governmental information campaign aimed at improving the awareness of both workers and employers of the law on pregnancy and maternity discrimination,and inject funding into the specialist information and advice services that pregnant women and new mothers need to help them protect their rights at work.

– The Government should send out a strong message to employers that that economic recession and ‘hard times’ are no excuse to flout the law.

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