Pregnancy discrimination

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2017 National Women's Conference
13 October 2016

Since the Tories have been in power, employment laws have become lax, the laws which are in place to protect our most vulnerable in society continue to be flouted and used by employers to stifle members. Basic principles are failing to be followed resulting in many women being discriminated against. This is often the case during pregnancy and the maternity period (which includes breastfeeding). More and more frequently employers are failing to consult properly with women who are on maternity leave, are not carrying out work place risk assessments and are treating women differently if they are of child bearing age.

It is not appropriate to allow these discriminations to go on unchallenged. These women need to be protected. What makes this even more sad is that often these practices are unintentional. Managers and employers are inadequately educated in their obligations around pregnancy and maternity discrimination and whilst acknowledgment must be given that there is evidence of intentional discrimination, there is a real challenge of employers being under pressure to do more for less due to the swinging cuts by central government. Not allowing time for proper valuable consultation with ALL staff, considering the impacts of changes on services and individuals.

According to a report published by the equality and human rights commission in 2015 around 54,000 women are losing jobs every year in Britain due to pregnancy discrimination, almost twice the amount since the initial study in 2005. In addition around 10% of mothers were found to be discouraged from attending antenatal appointments in work time. In addition the report also highlighted that:

• 10% of women said they were treated worse by their employer after returning to work after having a baby

• one in five new mothers – as many as 100,000 mothers a year – experienced harassment or negative comments from colleagues, employer or manager when pregnant or returning from maternity leave

• 7% said they were put under pressure to hand in their notice

• One in 20 reported receiving a cut in pay or bonus after returning to their job

This coupled with the changes in employment tribunal fees makes it easier for employers to take advantage of women during a vulnerable phase of their lives.

Conference we need to challenge pregnancy discrimination whether it be intentional or not. What may begin as unintentional, if it goes unchallenged, will become the panacea and will be accepted more widely in the workforce. We are protected by the equality act, protecting women during pregnancy and maternity and these should be enforced.

Therefore we ask the National Women’s Committee too:

1) Work with regions to provide guidance on challenging pregnancy and maternity discrimination in the workplace

2) Produce a code of good practice to support women who are pregnant or during the maternity phase which branches can use to support these women.

3) Work with LAOS and regions to provide pregnancy and maternity discrimination training session to activists

4) Work with regions to Increase awareness of pregnancy and maternity rights