02 February 2017 #Employment
Last week the Government responded to calls from MPs on the Woman and Equalities Committee to give pregnant women and mothers greater legal protection in the workplace.
The Equality Act already makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against a woman because of pregnancy or maternity and there can be substantial penalties for non-compliance. However, the Committee heard evidence to indicate that discrimination remains widespread.
Research presented to the MPs showed that 11% of women felt forced to leave their jobs after returning from maternity leave and 6% were made redundant. The Committee heard that the number of expectant and new mothers forced to leave their jobs annually had almost doubled to 54,000 since 2005. Many women also gave evidence of feeling that there was a lack of career progression available to them when they become pregnant, or upon their return from maternity leave, compared to other employees with similar experience and responsibility.
Although the Government believes that, on the whole, the current legal framework protecting pregnant women and new mothers is fit for purpose, they have specifically identified redundancy as an area for review. A separate review is currently being undertaken by Matthew Taylor MP into employment status following decisions in cases like those brought by Uber drivers. The Taylor report is expected this summer and it will deal with the issue of strengthening maternity protection for workers, so we can expect further developments in this area.
You can read the Government’s full response here. Our employment lawyers will keep the situation under review and further updates will appear here.