The government should take action to redress pregnancy and maternity policies a report from The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has urged, after it was revealed that 77% of pregnant women have face discrimination.
The report found that 54,000 new mothers are losing their jobs in the UK every year and that as many as 390,000 women are experiencing negative and potentially discriminatory treatment in the workplace.
EHRC has put forward several suggestions to the government including amending current laws for accessing legal support. Since an increase in tribunal fees of up to £1,200 in 2013, sex discrimination cases have dropped by 76% and pregnancy-related cases have decreased by 50%.
Danielle Ayres, an Employment Lawyer specialising in Pregnancy and Maternity Discrimination at Gorvins said: “The findings of the report reveal the shockingly archaic state of the system when it comes to pregnant women or those on maternity leave pursuing their rights in the face of discrimination.”
“Women shouldn’t be prevented from pursuing their rights through a tribunal because of cost – yet they are. There should be an extension of the three month limitation date for claims and there should be better access to free legal advice.”
Women only have a three-month time limit to raise an employment tribunal case involving pregnancy and maternity discrimination. The EHRC report has suggested that this should be increased to six months.
Ayres said: “The law surrounding pregnancy and maternity discrimination is already complex.
“But there needs to be consideration for the fact that pregnant women or new mothers may be too exhausted due to an impending or recent birth to focus on their rights. These women need time to collect their thoughts and consider their position.”
The research also revealed that the three quarters of mothers who felt forced to leave their job each reported more than 10 different types of negative experiences.
“There are so many ways, as the report highlights, which show how those on maternity leave are discriminated against: from not being informed about promotion opportunities or denied training opportunities to being threatened with dismissal, actually being dismissed or feeling they have to hand their notice in,@ added Ayres.
“It is appalling that such issues continue to prevail for women in the workplace and the system urgently needs an overhaul to prevent the recurrence of injustices.”
The report’s main suggestions include:
• Take more effective steps to prevent employers asking questions during the recruitment process about a women’s pregnancy or intention to have children.
• Make changes to the employment tribunal fee system so that cost isn’t a barrier to justice.
• Consider increasing the time that a woman can bring an employment tribunal case from three to six months for pregnancy and maternity discrimination cases.