In the wake of recent press coverage highlighting the vast
discrepancy between how employers believe they are treating
pregnant employees and how such employees feel that they are
actually being treated, the Equality and Human Rights Commission
has launched a national campaign to encourage knowledge sharing and
best practice in relation to pregnancy and maternity workplace
The "Working Forward" campaign, which is being
spearheaded by leading companies such as Barclays, Ford, Royal
Mail, BT Group and the Nationwide Building Society, is aimed at
making workplaces "the best they can be for pregnant women and
new mothers" although fathers, and hopefully employers, will
also benefit from the initiative.
Employers are asked to sign up and pledge their support on a
voluntary basis. The Equality and Human Rights Commission has
identified four key areas that can make a real difference to the
experiences of employers and employees alike. Employers are
recommended to take action in as little as two of these areas as a
starting point. The four areas are:
Demonstrating leadership from
the top down: emphasising the importance of awareness of
gender diversity and equal opportunity policies at all levels of
the business and engendering a culture which is based on such
awareness so that it becomes engrained in every aspect of the
employees: who feel able to talk about pregnancy and
maternity-related issues without fear of discrimination or
Training and supporting line
managers: so that they can offer the support necessary to
all employees who have, are going to have or are considering their
options in terms of childcare responsibilities; and
Offering flexible working
practices: we have already seen a change in, for example,
the flexible working regime to provide more employees with access
to such rights, along with the introduction of shared parental
leave. However, the Working Forward campaign stresses the
importance of building upon such legislative changes and ensuring
that flexibility is encouraged in practice and that employers
realise the benefits that can flow from more flexible and agile
Whilst action in only two of these areas is suggested at first,
it seems that once action is taken in even just one of these areas,
positive steps relevant to the remaining three areas will flow from
The campaign forms part of a broader recognition of the issues
and possible discrimination facing pregnant women and new mothers
and it seems that steps are, finally, being taken to address such
inequality. For example, the House of Commons Justice Select
Committee has also recommended a review of the three-month time
limit for bringing a pregnancy-related discrimination claim. Whilst
it is hard to determine at what point this additional protection
should end, it is hoped that such an extension will provide further
support for women in the workplace and, most importantly, reinforce
the importance of equality for all, in all aspects of
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