Maternity leave discrimination warning for employers

A legal expert is reminding employers of their responsibilities following a report which shows women are more likely than they were ten years ago to suffer discrimination on their return from maternity leave.

The research by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) surveyed 3,200 women and found that 1 in 9 had, due to their pregnancy, been dismissed or made redundant, or were treated poorly resulting in their resignation.

These statistics mean that, on average, 54,000 new mothers lose their jobs in the UK every year due to such discrimination – twice the amount identified in 2005.

However, the report also interviewed employers, with results showing that most actually supported women both during their pregnancies and after.

Kimberley Barrett-St.Vall, partner in the Employment team at Napthens, warned: “The Equality Act 2010 prevents women from being discriminated against in this way. Women cannot be treated unfavourably, or put to detriment, due to being pregnant or taking maternity leave. However, the research seems to suggest that employers are not sticking to this legislation.

“These numbers are worrying, with the research also showing that, for instance, one in five reported experiencing harassment or negative comments at work.

“However, looking at the research carried out among employers, many offer a lot of support for mothers and did not question their commitment.

“There is clearly a disparity here, and it’s very important for employers to understand their responsibilities and ensure that management and staff are up-to-date. “Anybody who requires guidance on their obligations as an employer or on implementing appropriate policies or procedures should seek legal advice.”