Extended legal protections for pregnant women, new mothers and adoptive parents against redundancy, have been confirmed by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).
In a recent consultation the Government revealed that new parents continue to face discrimination at work:
- 54,000 women said they felt they had to leave their jobs due to pregnancy or maternity discrimination.
- 1 in 9 women said (in 2016) they had been made redundant or fired after returning from maternity leave, or were made to feel so uncomfortable they had to resign.
Justine Roberts, Mumsnet's founder, said the website's community talked a lot about pregnancy and maternity discrimination, and that 96% of the women it surveyed in 2018 said, having children affected their careers for the worse.
“It's a multifaceted problem requiring a change in attitude and culture as well as legislation, but stronger legal protection is a very welcome first step,” said Roberts.
After further consultation, the current rules will be extended by six months, giving a two year legal protection against redundancy for women returning from maternity leave, plus those taking adoption or shared parental leave. This will take effect from the date of the mother's return to work.
Adoption leave has also been included, but further discussions may mean that this ends up being treated slightly differently than maternity leave. Parents of sick and premature babies may also receive new entitlements to additional leave.
The changes, which have yet to be legislated for, are part of the Good Work Plan which the government hopes will encourage new practices that will keep pace with changes in the workplace. With short term and zero hour contracts, gig work and working from home, employment practice needs to reflect the altered working environment.
Recent research from the TUC showed that nearly two million workers don't receive the minimum paid annual leave entitlement, with around a million not receiving any paid leave. The Working Time Regulation 1998 entitles employees to 5.6 weeks of paid leave, roughly 28 days a year including public holidays. Employers and employees need to take responsibility for ensuring that individuals take their entitled leave.
A taskforce of family groups and employers is also being set up to contribute to an action plan to help pregnant women and new mothers stay in work, and in addition, look at raising employer awareness of their obligations and employee rights.