Pregnancy and Maternity Discrimination in the Pandemic
Our 16th annual Mind The Bump campaign to stamp out pregnancy and maternity discrimination in the workplace coincides with #ChooseToChallenge on International Women’s Day on 8 March 2021.
The pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have resulted in a huge increase in gender inequality. A PwC study from May 2020 found that 78% of those who had already lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic were women. A TUC study carried out in June 2020 found that 1 in 4 pregnant women and new mothers had experienced unfair treatment or discrimination at work since the pandemic began. And in November 2020, the Fawcett Society reported that a third of working mothers had lost work or hours due to a lack of childcare during the pandemic, a figure that rose to 44% when it came to BAME mothers.
Cultural presumptions around presenteeism have historically meant that women taking a maternity break have been seen as being less committed to their employer. Inevitably this has resulted in maternity returners being first in line for any redundancies. We are still seeing women treated unfairly when they tell their employer they are pregnant. Performance issues are often raised for the very first time in reaction to this pregnancy announcement. A surprisingly high number of women contact us with Settlement Agreements where they are offered a low level of compensation when they are returning from maternity leave. It is difficult to tell whether there has been fair selection. This is particularly the case when women have taken their full year of maternity leave and have not been kept informed about organisational changes or promotions.
One positive shift in the pandemic however has been the change in attitude towards flexible working, such as reduced hours or working from home. The fact that this has been afforded to men as well as women has given families the opportunity to share childcare in a way which was not possible before.
We hope that men as well as women will #ChooseToChallenge gender inequality around pregnancy and maternity related discrimination. It is important for everyone to support our colleagues where we see this type of unfairness to try and reverse this worrying trend.
Our solicitors will be providing free employment law advice on maternity and pregnancy discrimination for employees as well as helping guide employers on their duties towards pregnant employees and women on maternity leave. For more information, and to book your place on our free virtual seminar, click here.