Pregnancy Rights

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2005 National Women's Conference
20 October 2004
Carried as Amended

Conference notes that discrimination against women because they are pregnant continues in the workplace, despite being illegal under sex discrimination legislation.

Recent investigations have found that many women are unaware of their rights during pregnancy and that employers, particularly in smaller organisations, were unaware of the law. The same investigation found that health and safety requirements were not being enforced and that it is difficult for women to challenge unfair discrimination through employment tribunals in the courts.

The current three-month time limit on making pregnancy discrimination claims means that many women must lodge their claim with the ET during the last months of their pregnancy or when they have recently given birth. Of those women who do make claims, half have already lost their job, and only half win their case due to difficulties proving that pregnancy was the reason for their treatment. Many reported lower status, lower paid employment or even unemployment after taking a case, and for every woman who takes a case to tribunal there are many who do not or cannot.

Women make up nearly half the workforce and pregnancy discrimination not only infringes our rights, but it has a detrimental effect on the economy through losing our skills, knowledge and experience.

Conference calls upon the National Women’s Committee to:

1)publicise the issue of pregnancy discrimination through UNISON’s own media and elsewhere to inform women of their rights;

2)issue guidance to branches regarding pregnancy discrimination, and to encourage them to use UNISON’s bargaining guide to maternity rights to negotiate positive agreements with employers;

3)work with relevant UNISON bodies to lobby the government for an extension of the time limit on pregnancy discrimination claims and for the burden of proof to be shifted onto the employer in pregnancy discrimination cases;

4)continue to produce the pregnancy diary and wall chart.