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2010 National Women's Conference
21 October 2009

Conference welcomes the raft of legislation in recent years that has been introduced and refined around maternity provision for women which has benefited thousands of women and their families. However, many women choosing to return to work after having children can often find this difficult both emotionally and practically.

Whilst on maternity leave, even just for a few months, changes can often take place that have an impact on working practices. For example, budget cuts, restructuring and/or reorganisation may have been carried out and the woman’s post and job status might have changed as a consequence. Some women choosing to go bak to work part time often complain that their workload is that of a full time employee.

Even with the introduction of ‘Keeping in touch (KIP) days’ in 2006, in many cases little provision is made for a reintroduction to work which can leave women feeling isolated and can make returning to work difficult and in some cases traumatic, especially for mothers dealing with emotional and/or physical health problems, including post natal depression.

Conference is also concerned that discrimination aimed at women returning to work after childbirth will increase during the recession. Research by Government Equalities Officer, Working Families and Maternity Action show this to be the case, whilst business leaders with a public profile such as Alan Sugar, warned last year in an article in the Daily Telegraph that our maternity laws have gone too far and people entitled to too much and that during a recession employers will start to discriminate against women again (Daily Telegraph, March 2008).

Conference instructs the National Women’s Committee to:

1)Conduct a survey amongst women members to establish the effectiveness of ‘Keeping in Touch’ days for women employees and employers and report the findings back to Conference in 2011.

2)Work with agencies such as Maternity Alliance, Working Families, Fawcett Society and Gingerbread to produce UNISON guidance for branches and members on providing support to women returning to work after maternity leave and on negotiating policies on KIP days. Guidance should be available in a leaflet and on the UNISON website.