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Pregnant Women & New Mothers Face Rising Discrimination At Work

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On 2 May, Citizens Advice reported that new and expectant mothers are reporting increasing levels of unfair treatment at work.

The charity said the number of women seeking its advice, after experiencing a cut in hours, being put on a zero-hours contract or being forced out of their job after becoming pregnant, had risen by 25% in its last financial year.

The employment law team at Martin Searle Solicitors have also seen a rise in these type of cases along with an increase in businesses refusing maternity returners flexible working rights.

In one case, the mother wanted to work from home one day a week and reduce from full time to four days. Despite only being an assistant researcher she was told that the business required full time cover with no consideration given to the advantages of employing job shares, particularly to cover sickness or holiday leave.

Despite the Government backing family friendly policies including Shared Parental Leave there looks to have been little uptake from fathers wanting to share childcare.

This raises a number of questions about the UK’s working culture.

Longer working hours seems to be on the increase and women announcing their pregnancy and taking maternity leave are often seen as a lacking commitment to their organisation.

Not surprisingly, there is little incentive for men to embrace taking time off to share their baby’s care, if they value their career.

We also see little evidence that employers are taking into consideration the benefits of recruiting for maternity or shared parental leave on a temporary basis in order to try out employees and expand their business. After all, maternity pay can be claimed back from the Government.

While there is much dialogue about attracting and retaining talent, this does not translate into many companies offering enhanced contractual maternity and shared parental pay, as a way of doing so.

There is much debate around the differences between Baby Boomers and the Millennials. But the Deal (2007) research showed common beliefs span generations. Family tops the list for all generations.

Clearly, this increase in unfair treatment towards pregnant women and women taking maternity leave is short sighted. Inevitably, employees will shun these businesses to work with much more family-centered and fair employers.

In the meantime, we will continue to act for women who experience pregnancy and maternity discrimination. Recovering compensation on behalf of our clients is often the most persuasive way of changing unfair employment practices.

About the author

Fiona Martin

fiona-martin

I lead the employment teams in our solicitors’ offices in Brighton, Eastbourne, Shoreham, Gatwick & Crawley and Croydon. As founding Director, I am also responsible for the firm’s marketing. I provide expert opinion for the press, disseminate employment law round-ups through my employment law blog and campaign on important issues such as maternity and disability discrimination. I train employers and HR professionals to be best practice managers and I am also a CEDR accredited mediator.

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