Government is failing new mothers in the workplace, says new report

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The government is being urged to act on a pledge to review redundancy protections for pregnant women and new mothers.

The charity Maternity Action says that ministers committed to review redundancy protection in January but that the government has so far failed to act.

It is calling for the government to act, as it launches a new report today in Parliament, which warns of the ‘harsh impact of unfair redundancies on pregnant woman and new mothers’.

One in every twenty mothers are made redundant during pregnancy, maternity leave or return to work, according to the report. Some of these redundancies are discriminatory, many are unfair, says Maternity Action.

The research examined the experiences of the women who call the charity’s advice line, seeking help with problems at work.  From its analysis, the charity says that many redundancies are not genuine, merely labelled ‘redundancy’ in an attempt to avoid discrimination claims.

Some pregnant women were forced to take part in stressful selection processes in late pregnancy and that others faced shock redundancies when they returned to work.  Even women on maternity leave, who have additional protections, were losing their jobs, it says.

Recent research by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has shown that the
rate of pregnancy and maternity-related discrimination is very high and has worsened
significantly over the past decade, points out the report.

Maternity Action says that urgent action is needed. It wants the UK to adopt the German model of redundancy protection.  Under this approach, women must not be made redundant from notification of pregnancy through to six months after return from work, with some limited exceptions.  This follows the recommendations of the Women and Equalities Select Committee on this issue.

To further tackle discrimination against expectant and new mothers in the workplace, the charity is calling for improvements in guidance for employers, information for women and support for advice services.

There are twelve recommendations at the end of the new report. These include employers being encouraged to evaluate the retention rates for women one year after returning from maternity leave, as part of their gender pay gap reporting. The charity also recommends extending the timeframe for making a claim to the employment tribunal to six months for women from pregnancy through to six months after return to work. It also says that ACAS should update its guidance on redundancy during pregnancy and maternity.

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