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The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) have today published a report which calls for the Government to take immediate action to redress the discrimination that 77% of pregnant women and new mothers face.

Last year the EHRC produced a report which suggested that 54,000 new mothers lose their jobs in the UK every year; today’s report states that there are now as many as 390,000 women experiencing negative and potentially discriminatory treatment in the workplace.

These worryingly high levels require urgent action. The EHRC has put forward a number of proposals, including making changes to the Tribunal Fee system to ensure that fees are not a barrier to accessing justice.  Since the introduction of Tribunal fees, sex discrimination cases have dropped by 76% and pregnancy-related cases by 50%.

Danielle Ayres, an Employment Lawyer specialising in Pregnancy and Maternity Discrimination at Gorvins said: “The findings of the report reveal the shockingly archaic state of the system when it comes to pregnant women or those on maternity leave pursuing their rights in the face of discrimination.”

Danielle continued: “Women shouldn’t be prevented from pursuing their rights through a Tribunal because of cost – yet they are. There should be an extension of the three-month limitation date for claims and there should be better access to free legal advice.”

Currently, women only have a three-month time limit to bring an employment tribunal case. The EHRC report suggests that this should be increased to six months, in cases of pregnancy and maternity discrimination.

“The law surrounding pregnancy and maternity discrimination is already complex,” said Danielle, “But there needs to be a consideration for the fact that pregnant women or new mothers may be too exhausted due to an impending or recent birth to focus on their rights. These women need time to collect their thoughts and consider their position.”

The EHRC’s research found that three-quarters of mothers who felt forced to leave their job each reported more than 10 different types of negative experiences.

Danielle continued: “There are so many ways, as the report highlights, which show how those on maternity leave are discriminated against: from not being informed about promotion opportunities or denied training opportunities to being threatened with dismissal, actually being dismissed or feeling they have to hand their notice in.”

“It is appalling that such issues continue to prevail for women in the workplace and the system urgently needs an overhaul to prevent the recurrence of injustices.”

The Commission has called the Government to make four main changes:

  • Take more effective steps to prevent employers from asking questions during the recruitment process about a women’s pregnancy or intention to have children.
  • Make changes to the Employment Tribunal Fee System so that cost isn’t a barrier to justice for women in this situation.
  • Consider increasing the time that a woman can bring an Employment Tribunal case, from three to six months for pregnancy and maternity discrimination cases.
  • Explore the possibility of a collective insurance scheme to support SMEs to provide enhanced pay and cover for maternity leave, based on a successful model in Denmark.

Call 0161 930 5151 to speak to Danielle if you think you are an expectant or new mother and think you have been discriminated against.

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