New mothers are facing an increase in workplace discrimination over their maternity leave and rights, claims a new report.
The report, released by the Citizens Advice Bureau, shows an increase in the number of women turning to the charity for advice. This year, 3,307 women contacted Citizens Advice about maternity leave problems, compared to 2,099 women last year.
The charity has seen an increase in the number of women who have experienced having their hours cut, being moved to a zero hours contract, and in some extreme cases, being forced out of their jobs.
Citizens Advice is now calling for the government to create a Fair Work Authority, a single organisation that would be able to enforce workplace rights more effectively.
Gillian Guy, CEO of Citizen Advice said, “In some cases women are having their hours cut or even being moved onto zero hours contracts when they tell their employers they are pregnant.”
“This can have a real impact on their income security as suddenly they don’t know what hours they will work or how they will be paid – the last thing they want when they are expecting a child.”
“Maternity protections are part of people’s employment rights but responsibility for enforcing these is poorly resourced and spread across a wide range of agencies, from HMRC to the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority.”
“This confusing landscape means some bad bosses are getting away with treating their employees unfairly. There is an opportunity for the government to consider bringing together the expertise of all current labour market enforcement functions into one well-resourced, effective body to investigate bad practice.”
“All employers should respect and uphold the rights of staff who are new parents or expecting a baby.”
Commenting on the recent report, a government spokesperson said, “Attracting and retaining female talent is crucial to economic growth and, as well as being against the law, it does not make business sense for employers to alienate and discriminate against women in their workforce.”
Employees throughout the UK are legally entitled to take up to 52 weeks of for parental leave. Though the first two weeks must be taken by the new mother, either parent can share the rest of the time. Employers must also allow for paid time off to attend antenatal appointments; offer a protection from redundancy and dismissal; and keep the same position open if up to 26 weeks’ leave is taken or keep a similar position open if more than 26 weeks are taken. Workers are also still entitled to contractual rights such as accruing holiday and pension contributions.