The government is progressing with a detailed consultation to assess the various means by which employers might act in a discriminatory away against new mothers in the British workplace.
This investigation comes after a series of eighteen recommendations were put forward in August 2016 by MPs working as part of the government’s Women and Equalities committee. The goal is to establish safeguards that will protect new mothers against employer actions which might cause them to leave their position either through direct dismissal from an employer or as a result of unfair treatment that forces them to resign their position.
UK Business Minister Margot James has spoken about the importance of the consultation and the dedication the committee MPs have for it:
“We are determined to tackle pregnancy and maternity discrimination and a key part of that is making sure new and expectant mothers are supported and treated fairly by their employers. There should be zero tolerance of discrimination against pregnant women, or women who have just given birth.”
Ms James has also stated how the discriminatory actions of bosses goes beyond harming new mothers to ultimately impacting upon UK businesses as a whole: “It is shocking that some employers still behave in this way and alienate a key group of their workforce. It makes no business sense.
The Women and Equalities committee has issued the results of several interviews that were conducted with new mothers to support its position. One anonymous woman claims a planned interview for a partnership position at a law firm was rejected once she returned to work after maternity leave. She subsequently left her position due to the discrimination she suffered.
Another woman, who also chose not to be named, saw her PR position get denied after she returned form maternity: “Before I fell pregnant, I had been asking about promotion opportunities, and possibilities were discussed with my manager […] On my return from maternity leave, I raised the issue of promotion again, and was told that if I wanted any hope of promotion, flexible working would make it very difficult.
Sufficient evidence proves that many working women feel too scared to voice their concern about maternity and pregnancy discrimination for fear they will be regarded as “trouble makers” should they do so, and that any such disclosure will have repercussions for their career as a result.
In total the amount of new and expectant mothers who claim to be forced from their jobs has doubled since 2005, to a total of 54,000.
The Women and Equalities committee seeks an all-encompassing protection for women that will include a “substantial” decrease in the existing £1,200 fee required for bringing a maternity convenience to tribunal.
An extension on the three month deadline for registering a claim is also sought, with the hope of doubling this period to six months. This comes despite government insistence that no evidence indicates an extended time frame will encourage more women to speak out.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady believes that negotiating tribunal fee costs is vital for stopping pregnancy and maternity discrimination occuring: “Bad bosses will continue to get away with discriminating against new mums as long as it costs up to £1,200 to take a pregnancy discrimination claim […] My advice to women is to join a union […] pregnant women and new mums are treated better in workplaces that recognise trade unions.”