The Women and Equalities Committee has demanded that the
government publish a detailed plan to tackle the issue of pregnant
women and mothers being forced out of work by employers'
Pregnancy and maternity discrimination is often covert and
regularly disguised as redundancy. It can be gradual and
intensifying, or much more sudden (usually almost immediately
following disclosure of pregnancy or return to work). Sometimes
employers choose to discriminate by omission, perhaps failing to
address health and safety concerns they would previously have been
proactive about. The covert nature of this discrimination can make
it more difficult for a mother to evidence the poor treatment and
feel that her only choice is to leave her role. Research by the
Department for Business Innovation and Skills and the Equality and
Human Rights Commission suggests that pregnant women and mothers
now face more discrimination than they did a decade ago.
In Germany, women and expectant mothers can only be made
redundant in specified circumstances. The protection applies from
the beginning of pregnancy until four months after childbirth.
Dismissals will only be approved (by the state) in rare cases such
as gross misconduct by the worker or the employer getting into
severe financial difficulties. Increased protection from redundancy
is just one of the recommendations the Committee has put forward in
the UK for consideration by the government. They have cited the
German system as a positive example. It is not to say that any
changes would precisely mirror the German system, but would keep
the UK in line with its peers. Other recommendations include:
potentially extending the three-month time limit for bringing a
claim in pregnancy and maternity discrimination cases;
substantially reducing tribunal fees for discrimination
extending maternity-related rights to casual, agency and zero
an easily accessible and formal mechanism to compel employers
to deal with concerns that a mother's or baby's health is
being put at risk by their work; and
the Health and Safety Executive requiring employers to
undertake individual risk assessments when they are informed that a
women who works for them is pregnant, has given birth in the past
six months, or is breastfeeding.
Theresa May has promised a bold, new positive role for the UK
in the world. However, this is just one example whereby it remains
helpful to understand how our neighbours are working to achieve
best practice in common areas. No doubt the government will want to
liaise with key interest groups in the UK before formalising any
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