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Increase in discrimination against pregnant women and new mothers in workplace

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Increase in discrimination against pregnant women and new mothers in workplace

Pregnant women and new mothers are suffering growing discrimination at work, according to a new report by the Citizens Advice.

The charity said it has seen a 25 per cent increase in the number of people seeking advice after experiencing a cut in hours, being put on a zero-hours contract or being forced out of their job while pregnant, or after giving birth.

It added there had been more than 22,000 visits to its website looking for information on the topic.

Citizens Advice chief executive Gillian Guy said pregnant women should not be made to fear discrimination, which is illegal.

“People with a baby on the way will have a lot on their minds already. The last thing they need is a threat to their income or job security. All employers should respect and uphold the rights of staff who are new parents or expecting a baby.”

One woman’s employer cut her weekly hours by more than half after she told them she was pregnant. Her boss claimed there was not enough work available to keep her on her previous hours, despite taking on new staff at the same time.

Another had her contract ended while she was on maternity leave, only finding out after she contacted her employer to ask why she had received no maternity pay.

In March, a piece of government-commissioned research said that three-quarters of pregnant women and new mothers experience discrimination of some kind at work, a significant rise since 2005, when 45 per cent of women reported such incidents.

A Government spokesman, reacting to the latest study, said that discrimination was “unlawful and completely unacceptable”.

The main maternity rights are:

  • Maternity leave of up to a year and pay for 39 weeks
  • Reasonable paid time off for ante-natal appointments (and the ability for partners to accompany you)
  • Contractual rights should continue during leave, including accrual of holidays and pension contributions
  • The right to return to the same job if up to 26 weeks’ leave is taken, and the right to return to a similar position if more than 26 weeks
  • Protection from redundancy, dismissal, and detriment due to pregnancy/maternity leave

Labour MP and shadow women and equalities minister Kate Green urged the government to outline its strategy to tackle this issue of discrimination against new and expectant mothers.

She said: “The 25 per cent increase in the number of people asking for advice on pregnancy and maternity issues in the past year is cause for alarm.”