Understanding Maternity Rights

Back to all Motions

2019 National Women's Conference
25 October 2018

Since the Equality Act (2010) introduced the specific protected characteristic of pregnancy and maternity, discrimination laws have improved working and maternity conditions for new mothers. However, the law is still quite complicated for new mothers and navigating their way through entitlements can often appear daunting and with many employers also not knowledgeable enough to administer these entitlements, better understanding on maternity rights is required.

Research has shown that many women are not aware of their rights including that they are entitled to a year off on maternity leave irrespective of their length of service, that they can share the leave with their partner under shared parental leave and that they are entitled to accrue annual leave while on maternity leave.

Similarly, many new mothers are not aware that workplace regulations require employers to provide suitable facilities for breastfeeding mothers to rest, and this includes being able to lie down.

Knowing what rights mothers have while on maternity leave is important to ensure employers are supporting and rewarding their employees in accordance with the law, but also for employers to retain and attract staff into their workforce.

Many new mothers feel disconnected, de-skilled and under-confident as they prepare to return to work. The return to work can be particularly daunting when you include sleep deprivation and sorting out childcare arrangements. UNISON can play a key role in supporting members at this time and this would help ensure members are up to date on their rights and entitlements when pregnant, during maternity leave and when returning to work.

There is also a role for UNISON to support mothers in their return to work so that they feel fully confident to take up their jobs again.

Conference call on the National Women’s Committee to

1)Work with Branches and Regions to ensure that Employers have clear Maternity Policies that are accessible to all,

2. Work with Branches and Regions to highlight the importance of the understanding of maternity rights which could include;

• Up-to-date information and guidance that reps can use in the workplace to support members, and

• Request that Maternity legislation is covered in Shop Stewards training and advice provided on what support can be given to new mothers.

3. Work with Regional Women’s Groups to explore the possibility of piloting Maternity Champions in workplaces.