The UK government has set out new proposals designed to protect pregnant women and new parents returning to work following the birth of a child against unfairly losing their jobs.
The new proposals have been created to combat workplace discrimination and provide better protection to women who return to work after maternity leave.
Legal Protection For 6 Months
According to the new consultation – which was launched on 25th January and will run for 10 weeks – pregnant women and new mothers should be legally protected against redundancy for up to six months after they return to work. For comparison, current measures only offer such protection for two weeks.
Moreover, the protections could also be extended to parents (both men and women) returning from adoption or shared parental leave.
The plans come after research by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) found that one in nine women had been dismissed or made redundant when they returned to work after having a child. In some cases, women were treated so poorly they felt they’d been forced out of their jobs.
The study estimated that 54,000 women in the UK lose their jobs because of pregnancy or maternity leave each year. Equally distressing is the fact that one in five mothers have personally experienced harassment or negative comments in the workplace due to being pregnant.
Prime Minister Theresa May said: “People in this country already benefit from some of the most rigorous workplace standards in the world, including parental leave and pay entitlements, but we are determined to do even more as we leave the EU. “It’s unacceptable that too many parents still encounter difficulties when returning to work.”
Consumer Groups Welcome The Consultation
Justine Roberts, founder of Mumsnet, said that her website has lots of stories from women who have been discriminated against at work because of pregnancy and/or maternity leave.
Indeed, Roberts said a 2018 Mumsnet survey found that 96% of women said having children affected mothers’ careers for the worse.
Roberts added that while stronger legal protection for pregnant women and new parents was a very welcome first step, attitudes and workplace cultures will need to change if the issue is to be properly addressed going forward.
Jane van Zyl, CEO of work-life balance charity Working Families, said discrimination in the workplace is also bad news for the economy. She added that many businesses still do not understand the benefits of family-friendly workplaces.
The consultation follows on from the biggest package of workplace reforms for over 20 years, set out in December 2018 by the Business Secretary Greg Clark.
One group that will be better protected under the new reforms is gig workers, who, for example, must be told details of their rights from their first day in a job, including their eligibility for paid and sick leave.
Even though pregnancy and maternity discrimination is illegal, the findings of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy research show that it still occurs.
[Related reading: Gig Workers Are Under-Protected, Need More Employee Benefits]
Tom is the Sales Director for Premier Choice Group. In his role, Tom oversee’s growth across all areas of the business while maintaining a small number of his own clients. At Premier Choice, Tom and the team deliver a unique, personal service to every client, while growing the business and maintaining a strong reputation as the UK’s best intermediary.