According to research published by the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) as many as 1 in 9 women say they have been dismissed, by reason of redundancy or otherwise, when they returned to work after having a baby or felt forced out of their job because of poor treatment.

With the aim of addressing this serious problem the Government has launched a consultation on more legal protection for pregnant women and new parents at work. It is hoped that by extending protection against redundancy and discrimination it will go some way to helping the estimated 54,000 women who lose their job each year due to pregnancy and maternity.

One proposal is to extend the enhanced legal protection which exists in cases of redundancy so that it continues after maternity leave for up to 6 months following a return to work. This may mean that before making that person redundant an employer would be obliged to offer them a suitable alternative vacancy where one is available with the employer or an associated employer. Other proposals include raising awareness of existing employment rights.

The problem is not limited to discrimination occurring part way through employment following pregnancy. Discrimination can be present before the employment relationship has even begun. Disturbing research from BEIS in 2016 found that a quarter of employers felt it was reasonable during recruitment to ask a woman about their future plans to have children. In other EHRC research in 2017, a third of private sector employers surveyed agreed it was reasonable to ask women about their plans to have children in the future. Any employer looking to avoid an Employment Tribunal claim should not be asking these types of questions whether that be at interview or at any other time.

 

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