A bill that gives pregnant women and new mothers legal protections against redundancy was reintroduced in parliament this week, as it is believed that the spread of COVID-19 has led to pregnant women or those on maternity leave to be at a higher risk of losing their job.
Maria Miller, Conservative MP for Basingstoke, Pregnancy and Maternity Redundancy Protection Bill received cross-party support in the House of Commons. This bill would protect women from redundancy in the six months following their child’s birth and during their maternity leave.
Ms Miller explained that thousands of women leave their jobs after giving birth due to discrimination. As well as 1 in 20 being made redundant. Ms Miller holds the opinion that COVID-19 will make matters worse for pregnant women. Ms Miller said:
Every year, 53,000 women leave their jobs when pregnant because of how they’ve been treated. My bill strengthens existing laws to better protect pregnant women and new mothers by prohibiting employers from making them redundant.
Ms Miller also explained in a Telegraph article she recently wrote:
We need all employees to be treated fairly, on their merit, not discriminated against simply because they are pregnant or new mums.
Maternity Action, a charity committed to ending inequality and improving the wellbeing of pregnant women have backed this bill. Rosalind Bragg, director of Maternity Action, said:
The current law on redundancy and maternity is complex, poorly understood and difficult to enforce. It is desperately unfair that mothers are bearing the brunt of the economic downturn, having to battle unfair redundancies as well as taking on an increased share of domestic work.
Ms Bragg went onto say that employers tend to believe pregnant women to be more expensive than other employees, even though it is the Government that pays statutory maternity pay. She said it is commonplace that women see others taking over their roles whilst on maternity leave who would then be kept on whilst they are made redundant.
Joeli Brearley, founder of Pregnant Then Screwed charity that supports pregnant women said:
Pregnant women and new mothers are the first to be pushed out of their jobs when a company is making cuts. If companies want to start supporting women now before action is taken by the government, they could start by offering better paternity leave for dads, and reduce the risk of singling out mums as the only ones taking leave.
The bill has received support from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), Fawcett Society, Pregnant Then Screwed, Working Families, the Royal College of Midwives, Unison and Usdaw.