More job protection for pregnant women proposed

Under new plans pregnant women and parents who return to work will receive greater protection from redundancy. The government plans to extend legal protection against redundancy. This proposal will pertain to women who are pregnant, and will continue up till six months after they return to work.

The proposal could also be extended to husbands and partners who are returning from shared parental leave or adoption.

Theresa May stated that it is unacceptable to find that so many parents still face difficulties when they return to work.

Research done by the Business Department found that one in nine women had either been made redundant or been fired soon after returning to work. Some were treated so badly that they felt forced to leave their jobs. The study revealed that every year 54,000 women potentially lost their jobs due to pregnancy or maternity.

Kelly Tolhurst, Business Minister stated that discrimination during pregnancy and maternity is illegal, although it is the unacceptable attitudes towards these mothers that eventually forces them to quit their jobs.

A consultation

A 10-week consultation has been launched by the government to discuss the proposals. This has been welcomed by consumer groups.

Mumsnet founder Justine Roberts said that in a 2018 survey it was shown that 96% of all women interviewed agreed that having children adversely affected their careers.

Ms Roberts went on to say that the problem is multi-faceted and needed a change in attitude as well as in culture and legislation. Stronger legal protection would be a welcome first step.

Chief Executive for the charity Working Families, Jane van Zyl stated that the organisation helpline heard from women every single day about their struggles with pregnancy and maternity discrimination. She agreed that the proposals would go a long way to reducing the staggering numbers of women who – due to discrimination – lose their jobs while pregnant or during maternity.

Theresa May commented that even though people in the UK already benefit from some of the most stringent workplace standards, particularly including pay entitlements and parental leave, the government is determined to do even more as we leave the EU.

Justice should be sought

Founder of Pregnant Then Screwed, Joeli Brearley commented that the extensions to the proposals would not help pregnant women who were the targets of discrimination while at work.

Ms Brearley pointed out that in 2016 a report published by the Equality and Human Rights Commission showed that 1 in 20 mothers were in fact made redundant during their pregnancy, either while pregnant, during maternity leave or soon after they returned to work.

Ms Brearley queried the validity of extending the proposals because more mothers are made redundant with the enhanced protections already in place. ‘What is the point of an enhanced protection when the ones in place are not working?’ asked Ms Brearley.

She went on to say that the problem is not the law. The law is very clear that it is illegal to make someone redundant due to pregnancy or maternity.

Ms Brearley agreed that there are several problems which needed to be addressed such as access to justice. Additionally, progressively expensive childcare along with a lack of flexible working arrangements makes it almost impossible for parents to effectively manage their work and home responsibilities.

She concluded by saying that until these issues were solved and a society created where women could be both bread winner and home maker, discrimination in the workplace could never be reduced or resolved.



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