The Women and Equalities Committee has called on government to introduce a German-style system to increase protections for pregnant women and new mothers at work.
This comes after research by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), found a “shocking” rise in the incidents of discrimination over the last ten years.
The committee said urgent action is needed to address the area, as the report revealed that more than one in 10 (11 per cent) of pregnant women and new mothers faced compulsory redundancy, dismissal or were forced out of their job because of poor treatment.
The number of expectant and new mothers forced to leave their job over child safety concerns or pregnancy discrimination is said to have doubled over the last decade to 54,000.
The committee criticised the government’s approach to the issue, which it said had so far lacked “urgency and bite”, and called on government to implement a German-style system that prevents dismissals and redundancies for pregnant employees, barring exceptional circumstances.
The committee also suggested that the three-month limit to take pregnancy and maternity discrimination cases to an employment tribunal should be extended to six months and it urged ministers to publish a detailed plan to improve work protections for pregnant women and new mothers within the next two years.
Committee chairwoman Maria Miller said: “There are now record numbers of women in work in the UK. The economy will suffer unless employers modernise their workplace practices to ensure effective support and protection for expectant and new mums.
“The Government’s approach has lacked urgency and bite. It needs to set out a detailed plan outlining the specific actions it will take to tackle this unacceptable level of discrimination. This work must be underpinned by concrete targets and changes to laws and protections to increase compliance by employers to improve women’s lives.”
The paper also recommends for government to slash the £1,200 fee for women taking a case to an employment tribunal, and for the rights to paid time off for antenatal appointments to be extended to casual, agency and zero-hours workers.
Angela Rayner, shadow minister for women and equalities, said the report shows that the tribunal fees introduced by the Government are pricing thousands of pregnant women out of justice.
She said: “Women on low pay, shift work or zero hour contracts should have the same access to employment tribunals as those with substantial financial means, but access to justice has become unaffordable for thousands of women on low pay.”
Business minister Margot James said: “Discrimination in the workplace is illegal with clear rules and regulations in place which every employer must follow: “It is completely unacceptable that pregnant women and new mothers are apparently being forced to quit their jobs because of outdated attitudes.”
You can read the full report here.
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