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Maternity Action releases report highlighting challenges faced by pregnant women

View profile for James Champness

The charity Maternity Action has released a report highlighting the challenges faced by pregnant women, those on maternity leave, and those returning to work after a period of family leave.  The report was based upon research conducted by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, and observed that 1 in 20 women had been made redundant either while pregnant, or while on (or shortly after returning from) maternity leave.  While some of these redundancies may be for genuine business reasons, the report also highlighted the significant rise in the proportion of women who complained of having experienced discrimination or negative experiences as a result of pregnancy, increasing from 45% in 2005 to 77% today.

Maternity Action has called upon the Government to stand by the pledge it made in January 2017 to review redundancy protection for employees on maternity leave.  Events since January 2017 have distracted the Government from social reform in a number of areas, and the promised review of pregnancy/maternity rights has yet to materialise, or even be timetabled.  The robust protections offered to female employees in Germany are cited by Maternity Action as one option the Government should at least consider.

Despite the criticism of the current legal framework, employers should nevertheless always be extremely cautious when dealing with pregnant employees, or with those on or returning from leave.  In a redundancy situation, positive discrimination is permitted in order to retain women in the work force, and any allegations of poor treatment or negative discrimination are now easier to enforce as a result of the abolition of the tribunal fee regime.