Why has pregnancy and maternity discrimination worsened over past decade?

22 March 2016

Women and Equalities Committee launches new inquiry into pregnancy and maternity discrimination following the Equality and Human Rights Commission report.

EHRC and BIS Report

Pregnant women and new mothers are more likely to face negative treatment at work than they were a decade ago, according to new research published by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). In response to the report, the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee launches an inquiry to look at the action being taken to address this growing problem. The inquiry will focus in particular on whether the Government proposals are enough, or whether tougher action is required to ensure that pregnant women and mothers are treated fairly.
The views of over 3,000 women and 3,000 employers were sought for this research, making it the largest survey of its kind. Key findings include:

  • 77% of women surveyed said that they had experienced negative or potentially discriminatory treatment
  • 55% of employers surveyed provided no guidelines, training or support to managers on managing pregnancy and maternity
  • 10% of women surveyed were discouraged from attending antenatal appointments by their employer
  • 7% said they were put under pressure to hand in their notice
  • One in five new mothers reported experience of harassment or negative comments from colleagues, employers or managers when pregnant or returning from maternity leave

In response to the research, the EHRC has recommended six areas for action: leadership for change, improving employer practice, improving access to information and advice, improving health and safety management in the workplace, improving access to justice, and monitoring progress. 

Chair's comments

Committee Chair Maria Miller said: 

"The EHRC’s finding that women are more likely to face pregnancy and maternity discrimination now than a decade ago is shocking. We have strong legislation, but progress on attitudes and awareness has gone into reverse. This is not good enough. Workplace equality for pregnant women and mothers needs to be real, not just paper-based. Our new inquiry will ask some searching questions, to inform the Government’s plans for creating a fair and equal workplace in the future."

Call for evidence

The Committee is keen to hear from employers, policy organisations, and individual women. The inquiry will focus on solutions, with a particular emphasis on the following areas:

  • The likely effectiveness of the Government’s proposals for action 
  • How the Government can work with employers to drive behaviour change and improve outcomes for women
  • Whether particular groups or types of employers need more support to achieve this
  • How to help women and their employers find the information they need
  • Reasons for the reported rise in discrimination in the past decade
  • The extent to which changes in the labour market in the past decade have affected levels of discrimination
  • What improvements could be brought about by better inter-departmental working in Government
  • Whether some areas of existing legislation could be implemented more effectively
  • Effectiveness of tribunals as a deterrent, and whether this has been affected by the introduction of fees in 2013
  • Health and safety
  • Whether increased financial support for small business would help to reduce discrimination
  • What can be learned from best practice in the UK and elsewhere

Send a written submission via the pregnancy and maternity discrimination inquiry page.

If you would like to submit evidence to the inquiry, please read Guidance on giving evidence to a Select Committee of the House of Commons.

The deadline for written submissions is Monday 18 April 2016.

Further information

Image: iStockphoto

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