Recent research carried out on discrimination in the workplace
by the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills and
Equality & Human Rights Commission has found that
discrimination against pregnant women and mothers is on the
The research has been considered by the Women & Equalities
Committee of the House of Commons.
The research revealed that some 11% of pregnant women or mothers
complained of being dismissed, forced out of work due to
detrimental treatment or made compulsory redundant when other
employees were not. It is shocking that in this day and age
less scrupulous employers may be using the fact of a woman's
pregnancy or motherhood as a reason for creating a redundancy
situation, treating them detrimentally or forcing them out of work
Despite the advances made in the protection of women's
rights at work discrimination still remains relatively hard to
prove. The conduct complained of may be subtle and/or masked by
other business reasons. Female employees may notice a change in
attitude by their employer/line manager, diversion of work to
colleagues, exclusion from meetings, removal of responsibility, for
Significantly, pregnant women or women on maternity leave
complain of being made redundant when others within the workforce
are not. There is at the very least a perception of unfairness in
From an employer's perspective it is not particularly
difficult to "justify" a redundancy for business reasons.
Termination of employment for redundancy is, of course, a fair
reason for termination. Restructuring or reorganisation is
frequently used by employers as a means to achieve greater
efficiencies, make economies, reduce workforce numbers and
redistribute duties. It may be truly incidental that the casualty
in the process is the pregnant woman or woman on maternity leave,
but then it may not if the outcome of the research is
Add into the mix the difficulties a pregnant woman or mother
will have in obtaining access to justice in the form of advice,
representation or costs of pursuing an application to an Employment
Tribunal nowadays and you can see why there is cause for
concern. Pregnant women and mothers will not only be
undergoing the physical and emotional stress of pregnancy and
motherhood but also the economic difficulties associated with
having a young child and a reduction in income. The last
thing that is needed is the additional cost and trauma of having to
fund advice, representation and an Employment Tribunal claim
against your former employer in cases which may well be fraught
with uncertainty due to the employers hiding behind
It is hardly surprising therefore that the Women &
Equalities Committee of the House of Commons has called for a
change in the law to give new and expectant mothers additional
protection from redundancy such that they can only be made
redundant in certain specified instances. Furthermore, it has
called upon the Government to monitor to what extent there is unmet
need amongst women seeking advice on pregnancy and maternity
In all the post-Brexit uncertainty it is to be hoped that the
Government will give some clarity and reassurance to new and
expectant mothers that not only will their rights as they stand not
be eroded but in fact be protected and extended.
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guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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