Government urged to tackle maternity discrimination

At Hethertons we know that being aware of rules and regulations that are likely to be introduced is as important to business planning as knowing what its current obligations are.

Our Senior Associate Solicitor, David Scott, warns employers that the next major change in employment law is likely to be increased protection for pregnant employees or those on maternity leave.

“We know that the government is now considering the submissions made to it following the ending of its consultation on whether additional protections are needed to protect pregnant employees and those on maternity.

“We have been given indications of the support for more protections being introduced following the publication of the parliamentary Women and Equalities Select Committee (WEC) submission to the government’s consultation. The WEC supported increased protections being introduced.”

The select committee urged the government to tackle maternity discrimination or face further increases in pregnant women and mothers being forced out of work.

MPs told the government that it needs to develop a detailed and ambitious plan. They also called for increased protection for casual, agency and zero-hours workers, saying that the government needed to improve health and safety practices and prevent any discriminatory redundancies.

The committee highlighted the three month limit for bringing an employment tribunal claim as one issue, which has been criticised in cases of pregnancy and maternity discrimination.

The WEC published a significant report in 2016, stating that a ‘shocking’ increase in workplace pregnancy discrimination needed urgent action. Statistics revealed in the report suggest that 54,000 women face significant discrimination and poor treatment at work each year.

However, nearly three years since the publication of that report, MPs said that there are few signs of the increased rights outlined in the report.

Maria Miller, chair of the WEC, said: “At present, the burden of enforcement rests too heavily with the individual experiencing discrimination, so there must be a new mechanism to increase compliance by employers if women’s lives are to be improved.”

The WEC backed proposals to provide an extra six months of redundancy protection for new mothers upon their return to work after maternity leave. Under current rules, the redundancy protection ends as soon as a woman returns to work after maternity leave.

No date has been set for when the government will propose any amendments to the legislation.  Hethertons will keep you up to date with this and other developments in employment law.