COMMONS

Pregnancy and maternity discrimination: more urgency and bite needed

26 January 2017

The Government has responded to the Committee's report on pregnancy and maternity discrimination.

Government urged to look again at specific steps

While the Committee welcomes Business Minister Margot James's commitment to zero tolerance of discrimination against expectant or new mothers in the workplace, it would also like to see more detail, and has urged the Government to look again at some of the specific steps which it put forward:

  • new protections are needed, particularly for women who have casual or zero hours employment arrangements
  • for ensuring that risks in the workplace for pregnant women are addressed
  • as well as for guarding against discriminatory redundancies after women return to work.

It also welcomes the Government's commitment to consider further proposals to ensure that the protections in place are sufficient.

The Government's own research, done in collaboration with the Equality and Human Rights Commission, has shown that pregnancy and maternity discrimination is a significant problem and is getting worse. The number of expectant and new mothers reporting having to leave work because of concerns about the safety of their child or pregnancy discrimination has almost doubled in the last decade.

Chair's comment

Committee Chair Maria Miller said:

"We welcome the Government's commitment to "zero tolerance" and we look forward to seeing how steps such as a digital maternity tool work in practice to spread knowledge of women's rights. We will also take a keen interest in how Matthew Taylor's review of employment practices addresses some of the issues which we raised.

However, where we have asked for specific steps to be taken, backed up by timescales and clear accountability, too often the Government has responded with a lack of detail or new ideas."

Worrying enforcement gap 

The Committee found that there was a worrying enforcement gap with respect to the current law. It is awaiting publication of the Government's own review of the effects of tribunal fees on the number of people taking action. It was disappointed to find that the Government has not accepted that more women would be able to take enforcement action against pregnancy and maternity discrimination if the time limit for employment tribunal claims was extended.

Maria Miller said:

"This is an opportunity for the Government to demonstrate the urgency and bite on this issue that we found lacking when we published our report in August."

Further information

Image: iStockphoto

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