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New mothers to get extended 'protected period' when returning to work

On the 25th January, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) announced a 10-week consultation which recommends extending the legal protection against redundancy for pregnant women to cover up to six months after a new mother returns to work. It will also seek views on offering the same protections to those returning from both adoption leave or shared parental leave.

What are the current laws surrounding pregnancy and maternity discrimination?

Under the Equality Act 2010, there is a ‘protected period’ during which women who are pregnant or have recently given birth are explicitly protected from discrimination. This ‘protected period’ runs from the beginning of a woman’s pregnancy up until she either returns to work from ordinary or additional maternity leave (depending on what form of leave she qualifies for) or two weeks after the end of her pregnancy should she not be entitled to maternity leave.

This period covers discrimination that can arise from any absence or illness due to her pregnancy, being on compulsory maternity leave, or seeking to take ordinary or additional maternity leave.

Before an employer can make an employee on maternity leave redundant, they must offer them a suitable alternative vacancy in the workplace should one be available. Under the Maternity and Parental Leave etc Regulations (1999) (“MAPLE”), employers must prioritise new mothers over other employees who may be at risk of redundancy in addition to ensuring the role is not ‘substantially less favourable’ than her previous job.

96% of women felt having children affected their careers for the worse in 2018

Research commissioned by the BEIS in collaboration with the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) found that one in nine women had been fired or made redundant after having a child in 2016, or were treated so poorly they felt forced out of their job when they returned to work. The study also estimated 54,000 women a year could lose their job due to pregnancy or maternity.

Support group Mumsnet welcomed the consultation. The founder of the UK’s most popular website for parents, Justine Roberts, recently announced the users of the site consistently discussed pregnancy and maternity discrimination during 2018, and that 96 per cent of the women they surveyed felt that having children had affected their careers for the worse.

Roberts concluded:

“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.”

The consultation will end on the 5th of April 2019.

Contact our Maternity, Paternity & Family Rights Lawyers, London

If you feel you have been discriminated against because of your pregnancy or maternity leave in the workplace, get in touch with a member of our qualified employment law team today. Contact Cavendish Law solicitors today via the online enquiry form for first-class legal advice and proactive representation.

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