Pregnancy and maternity rights have been increasingly in the news over the last few years, particularly as part of the discussion about the increasing gap in pay between men and women during their thirties and why there is a trend of women taking less well paid and skilled roles after having children.
Are employers doing enough to support pregnant women and working mothers and are more protections needed?
50% of mothers reported a negative impact on their careers
In 2016 a report from the Women and Equalities Select Committee found that 50% of mothers surveyed reported a negative impact on their careers as a result of their pregnancy, 20% had experienced harassment or negative comments relating to their pregnancy or flexible working from either their employer or colleagues, and 11% of women returning from maternity leave were either dismissed, made redundant and or felt they were treated so poorly they had to leave.
In 2017 the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s survey of 1,000 employers found that around a third of those businesses thought it was reasonable to ask a woman about her plans to have children as part of the recruitment process.
The Taylor Review
Following these reports, in 2018 the Taylor Review recommended action needed to be taken to increase protections from detriment and dismissal for pregnant woman and those on maternity leave, and noted that pregnancy and maternity protections were too complex for businesses to understand.
As part of its follow up to the Taylor Review the Government is now consulting on whether to extend the current protections from redundancy for pregnant women and new mothers. The key suggestions of this proposal are whether they should:
- Extend redundancy protection for pregnant women so that it starts as soon as a woman notifies her employer in writing that she is pregnant (currently this protection applies only when a woman is on maternity leave)
- Extend protection from redundancy for a period of six months after returning from maternity leave.
- Extend equal protection to other similar groups, such as those on adoption and shared parental leave and to those on long periods of parental leave
Awareness of pregnancy and maternity rights
Another part of the Government’s aim has been to increase awareness of pregnancy and maternity rights and protections with employers, pregnant women and new mothers. They have sought to do this by updating the Gov.uk web pages and MAT B1 form, through the updated 2017 ACAS guidance, and the Health and Safety Executive also providing more guidance on pregnancy and maternity issues in the workplace. The consultation would like input from the public on whether these actions have been effective in increasing knowledge of these rights.
The consultation also seeks views on better ways of enforcing pregnancy and maternity rights, and has stated that the government intends to create a new labour market enforcement agency to police this area.
The consultation is also gathering evidence on whether to extend the time limit in which a woman with a pregnancy/maternity discrimination claim can bring an employment tribunal claim from 3 months (as is currently the case) to 6 months.
If you are interested in taking part in the consultation, you can find the details here. The consultation will be open until 5th April 2019.
In the meantime, if you have any questions about pregnancy and maternity rights and protections or would like to check your policies are compliant, please contact the Employment Team at [email protected].
Consistent with our policy when giving comment and advice on a non-specific basis, we cannot assume legal responsibility for the accuracy of any particular statement. In the case of specific problems we recommend that professional advice be sought.