There will be “zero tolerance” of discrimination against expectant or new mothers in the workplace, claims the government. It has announced a consultation on options to ensure women have sufficient protections from redundancy.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said it will consider how to ensure new and expectant mothers are ‘supported and fairly treated’ by their employers.
“While most businesses abide by the law, some do not,” says business minister Margot James: “There should be zero tolerance of discrimination against pregnant women, or women who have just given birth, that’s why today we are committing to making sure new and expectant mothers have sufficient protections from redundancy.”
The consultation is a response to a report by the Women and Equalities Select Committee on pregnancy and maternity discrimination. It called for a German-style system banning employers from making women redundant during and after pregnancy, except in specific exceptional circumstances.
The committee also called for a “substantial” cut in the £1,200 fee for women taking a pregnancy-related discrimination case to an employment tribunal and extending the time limit for making a claim from three to six months.
Maria Miller, chair of the Women and Equalities Select Committee says: “We welcome the Government’s commitment to “zero tolerance” and we will also take a keen interest in how Matthew Taylor’s review of employment practices addresses some of the issues which we raised.
However, where we have asked for specific steps to be taken, backed up by timescales and clear accountability, too often the Government has responded with a lack of detail or new ideas.”
Unions are also pressing for the government to make it easier for women who have been discriminated against to take their case to a tribunal.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady says: “We are pleased the Government has finally published its plans for tackling pregnancy discrimination. However, ministers are still not confronting the elephant in the room – the impact of employment tribunal fees.
“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.
“It’s also very disappointing that the Government has not extended the time women have to bring a claim.”
The government says that the conclusions of a review into employment tribunal fees will be published “shortly”.