Maternity Rights

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2018 Local Government Service Group Conference
21 February 2018

Since the Tories have been in power, employment laws have become lax 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 workplace risk assessments and are treating women differently if they are of child bearing age. Redundancies among pregnant women and new mothers have risen dramatically.

Managers are generally inadequately educated in their obligations around pregnancy and maternity discrimination. There is also a real challenge of employers being under pressure to do more for less due to the swingeing cuts by central government.

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:

1)10% of women said they were treated worse by their employer after returning to work after having a baby;

2) 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;

3) 7% said they were put under pressure to hand in their notice;

4) One in 20 reported receiving a cut in pay or bonus after returning to their job;

5) 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.

Maternity rights within the NJC Green Book are worse than that elsewhere in the public sector – in a workforce comprising 78% women! The Local Government Association refuses to negotiate improvements to terms and conditions.

Conference also notes that term-time contracts are inconsistent across different employers. There are a range of methods for calculating pay with implications for maternity rights. Conference welcomes the NJC review of term time working which will produce guidance on maternity, parental leave, shared parental leave and adoption leave.

Conference believes local government should set the highest standards on maternity rights. We need to challenge pregnancy discrimination whether it is intentional or not. What may begin as unintentional, if it goes unchallenged, will become practice and will be accepted more widely in the workforce. During pregnancy and maternity women are protected by the Equality Act, and this should be enforced.

Conference calls on the local government service group executive to:

a)Work with the national women’s committee, regions, branches, Maternity Action and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to promote UNISON guidance on challenging pregnancy and maternity discrimination in the workplace;

b) Work with the sector committees to seek to improve maternity and parental rights within the Green Book and other handbooks, through new claims;

c) Campaign for increased maternity rights for women who have premature deliveries;

d) Work with the national women’s committee, learning and organising services and regions to provide pregnancy and maternity discrimination training sessions to activists;

e) Support the work of Maternity Action and the EHRC in seeking to identify exemplary cases through which to challenge pregnancy discrimination.