Pregnant women and new mothers 'face rising discrimination' at work

Pregnant woman at keyboard Image copyright Thinkstock

New and expectant mothers are reporting increasing levels of unfair treatment at work, Citizens Advice has said.

The charity said the number of women seeking its advice after experiencing a cut in hours, being put on a zero-hours contract or being forced out of their job after becoming pregnant had risen by 25% in its last financial year.

It said it was "concerning" that the problem seemed to be growing.

Pregnancy or maternity discrimination by employers is against the law.

Is pregnancy costing women their jobs?

In the past financial year, 1,921 people turned to Citizens Advice for help with pregnancy and maternity discrimination, up from 1,540 in the previous 12 months, the charity said.

There was also a 22% increase in people seeking online help, with the charity's web advice viewed 22,000 times in the last year, it said.

'Fear for livelihood'

One woman reported that her 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 woman contacted her employer to find out why she had not received any maternity pay, to be told they had ended her contract while she was on maternity leave.

Main maternity rights

  • 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

Source: Maternity Action

Recent research by the Equality and Human Rights Commission found 77% of mothers reported a negative or possibly discriminatory experience at work during their pregnancy, maternity leave or on their return to work.

Citizens Advice chief executive Gillian Guy said pregnant women should not be made to fear for their livelihood.

"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."

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