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New Mothers Experience an Increase in Workplace Discrimination

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By Patrick Stewart

A new report claims that new mothers are facing an increase in workplace discrimination following maternity leave.

The Citizens Advice Bureau report reveals that 3,307 women contacted the Bureau this year about maternity leave problems, compared to 2,099 last year. There has been an increase in the number of women who have experienced being moved to a zero hours contract, having their hours cut and even being forced out of their jobs.

The Bureau is now calling for the government to implement a single organisation which is able to enforce workplace rights more effectively.

Gillian Guy, CEO of Citizens Advice commented: “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”. She went on to stress the importance that all employers respect and uphold the rights of staff who are new parents or expecting a baby.

UK Employees are legally entitled to the following from their Employers:

  • Up to 52 weeks for parental leave. The first two weeks must be taken by the new mother, but either parent can share the rest of the leave.

  • Paid time off to attend antenatal appointments and protection from redundancy and dismissal. If up to 26 weeks’ leave is taken, the Employer must keep the same role open or if more than 26 weeks is taken, keep a similar position open for the parent on their return to work.

  • An entitlement to contractual rights such as accruing holiday and pension contributions.

A further report from the Women and Equalities Committee highlighted the ‘shocking’ workplace discrimination of pregnant women and new mothers. The report has brought to light the importance of employers offering employees support when making the transition back to work following maternity leave. This support could include simple measures such as linking the employees up with other new parents in the company to provide a network of support and advice.

We strongly recommend that employers are aware of their employees’ rights regarding maternity leave in order to avoid an employee bringing a claim. It is against the law for an employer to treat an employee unfavourably because she is pregnant, has pregnancy-related sickness, or is on maternity leave, or has taken maternity leave.

If the employee is treated unfavourably, they could bring a discrimination claim, for which the compensatory award is uncapped and employees are protected from day one of their job. If the employee has been dismissed because they are pregnant, they could in addition bring a claim for unfair dismissal. Claims for victimisation can also be brought in relation to pregnancy and maternity discrimination.

We advise both employees and employers on discrimination disputes and also offer advice on ensuring that company policies and procedures surrounding maternity are non discriminatory. 

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