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Action versus government inaction


#MaternityRights, Maternity Action, report launched, unfair redundancies, government inactionThe government has neither consulted on the redundancy issue nor provided any timeframe for doing so.

Maternity Action held a meeting in Parliament today to launch their report on unfair redundancies during pregnancy, maternity leave and return to work and to raise awareness about the harsh impact of unfair redundancies on pregnant women and new mothers and to call on decision makers to take action and.

One in every twenty mothers are made redundant during pregnancy, maternity leave or return to work.

Some of these redundancies are discriminatory, many are unfair.

Each year, there are over 500,000 pregnant women in the workplace, many of whom go on to take a period of maternity leave before returning to work.

One in every 20 of these women are made redundant during their pregnancy, maternity leave or on their return, equivalent to 6 per cent of all pregnant women and new mothers at work.

The timing of redundancy varies, with 1 per cent of women made redundant when they were pregnant, 3 per cent on maternity leave and 2 per cent on their return from maternity leave.

Another 3 per cent of mothers had discussed redundancy with their employer.

Recent research by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) showed that the rate of pregnancy and maternity-related discrimination is very high and has worsened significantly over the past decade.

The EHRC research, released in 2016, found that 77 per cent of pregnant women and new mothers had experienced discrimination or negative experiences during pregnancy, maternity and on their return from maternity leave.

This amounts to 390,000 women each year.

By comparison, research undertaken in 2005 found that 45 per cent of pregnant women and new mothers had experienced discrimination.

This is a dramatic increase in the rate of maternity discrimination.

After the publication of the results of the Women and Equalities Select Committee’s Inquiry the government made a specific commitment on redundancy protection:

‘The legal framework in place to protect pregnant women and new mothers from discrimination is strong.

‘If women are discriminated against because they are pregnant or take time away to care for their baby, they have a legal means of redress.

‘The Committee’s report does suggest areas where we could further strengthen existing protections and we make a commitment in this response to review the position in relation to redundancy.’

Since this announcement in January 2017, the government has neither consulted on the redundancy issue nor provided any timeframe for doing so.

Officials from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) attended a meeting of the Alliance for Maternity Rights, convened by Maternity Action, in October 2017.

At this meeting they advised that the government is not planning any legislative changes and asked for ‘other ideas’ to address the problem.

Meeting participants advised that a legislative response was needed, in conjunction with other interventions to improve employer practice and better support women to exercise their rights.

In subsequent Parliamentary Questions, the Minister has described this meeting as ‘an initial consultation’.

This meeting fell well short of a satisfactory consultation process.

In their report, Maternity Action outlined 12 recommendations for action the government should take now:

1 – New legal protections should be introduced to protect women against unfair redundancy. These should operate from pregnancy through to six months after the end of maternity or shared parental leave. These should follow the German model of prohibiting redundancy except in specified circumstances.

2 – To ensure better protections are in place while the new legislation is prepared, the ‘Reg 10’ protections should be immediately extended to operate from the commencement of pregnancy through to six month after the end of maternity or shared parental leave.

3 – The protections for pregnant women and new mothers should be extended to fathers and partners taking paternity, shared parental and parental leave during pregnancy and their child’s first year.

4 – Employers should be encouraged to evaluate the retention rates for women one year after returning from maternity leave, as part of their gender pay gap analysis.

5 – Extend the timeframe for making a claim to the employment tribunal to six months for women from pregnancy through to six months after return to work.

6 – ACAS should update its guidance on redundancy during pregnancy and maternity.

7 – The government should consolidate information for employers on managing pregnant women and new mothers at work on a single website, and this should be kept rigorously up to date.

8 – The government should provide signposting for women to high quality online information on maternity rights, ensuring that women can access accurate, up to date information and avoid incorrect and out-of-date material.

9 – A significant injection of funding should be made into women’s charities providing specialist information and advice services that enable pregnant women and new mothers to protect their rights and entitlements.

10 – All women should be given a hard copy leaflet at their first antenatal appointment which briefly outlines their rights at work and signposts to key sources of information and advice. This should have a tear-off sheet for women to give to their employers, which similarly lists key legal obligations and signposts to key sources of information.

11 – Reintroduction of the ‘Pregnancy’ and ‘Birth to five’ books, previously distributed by health services. These should include essential information about entitlements at work for new and expectant mothers.

12 – Midwives, maternity support workers and health visitors should receive training on maternity rights at work, including signposting to sources of advice and support.

To read the full report, click here.

Please call on the government to urgently act on its commitment to review redundancy protection, which it made in January of this year and has yet to act on.

Please contact your MP and ask them to support these recommendations.

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