Pregnancy discrimination at work – comments from the community

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According to research conducted by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, 11 percent of women interviewed who were either pregnant or a new mum reported having been dismissed, made compulsorily redundant or treated so poorly they left their position.

Following the news that over 50,000 women could be at risk of losing their jobs due to pregnancy, people from the professional community comment on the impact this will have on today’s workplace.

Chris Tutton, an employment partner at national law firm, Irwin Mitchell, believes the results of the survey are deeply disturbing. He says:

“Equality laws have been around in the UK for many years and have extended significant protections to pregnant workers and those who are returning from maternity leave. The results of the survey are however deeply concerning as there is a clear gap between what employers say they perceive as the benefits, and what the reality is.”

Enei chief executive Denise Keating, believes these results show more work needs to be done in educating both mothers and businesses. she comments:

“It is highly disappointing that in this day and age there are employers who do not value the contribution that new mothers can make to their workplace. Unlawful discrimination, on such a large scale, is shocking evidence that much more work is required in both educating new mothers of their rights under the Equality Act 2010 and educating business about the value that new mothers can bring.

“For a new mother, money is tight and time is tighter, and we would suggest that new mothers who are being forced out of their jobs are being let down by the justice system, with the current time limits and employment tribunal fees acting as a barrier to justice for these women. We would call on the Government to investigate whether employment tribunal fees in these cases are justified.”

Sarah Jackson, CEO of Working Families, believes this discrimination is wasting skills and talents the UK needs. She says:

“We help thousands of women each year, informing them of their rights and enabling them to challenge discrimination in their workplace.  No one should face discrimination and anyone that does should be supported to confront it.

“When women are forced out of work it’s a dreadful waste of skills and talents which this country needs.

“The research also shows the reality gap.  Employers would like to get it right and know that they need to do better in order to retain the talents of their pregnant women and new mothers.

“Organisations often have good intentions and the right policies but unless line managers are properly trained in maternity rights and are supported in their management of pregnant women and new mothers this is where it can, and often does, go wrong.”

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady believes that the report should act as a wake up call for ministers. She says:

“This shocking report shows that many employers are in denial about the scale of pregnancy discrimination in their workplaces.

“Becoming pregnant should be one of the happiest times in a woman’s life, not a period of anxiety and stress.

“These findings must not be swept under the carpet. The current culture of bullying, harassment and ill-treatment that many female workers experience must be consigned to the past.

“Today’s report should also act as a wake-up call to ministers. If they want more employers to comply with the law they shouldn’t be charging women up to £1,200 to pursue a pregnancy discrimination claim.”

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