Pregnancy and maternity discrimination remains a growing issue. A 2023 survey by the campaign group Pregnant Then Screwed found that over half of all mothers have faced some form of discrimination when pregnant, on maternity leave, or on their return to work.
The survey also found that almost one in five mothers had made the decision to leave their employer due to a negative experience due to their decision to have children. 1 in ten women reported bullying or harassment when pregnant or returning to the workplace. Additionally, 7% of women lost their job as a result of their pregnancy, either through redundancy, dismissal, or being forced to leave due to health and safety issues or a refusal to accept their flexible working request.
Sadly, outdated and discriminatory attitudes are all too common among business leaders. A 2021 survey found that 40% of employers claim to have seen at least one pregnant women in their workplace “take advantage” of their pregnancy, whilst around a third believed that pregnant women and new mothers in work were “generally less interested in career progression” compared to other employees.
Martin Searle Solicitors’ campaign will challenge these biased perceptions and provide clear information outlining best practice for employers on their responsibilities around pregnancy and maternity at work. They will also help employees understand their legal rights when pregnant or on maternity leave.
Access to legal advice and representation is crucial and Martin Searle Solicitors will be offering a free 30-minute telephone advice service every Tuesday and Thursday, throughout March 2024, for employers and employees concerned about the workplace rights of pregnant women and women on maternity leave.
Fiona Martin, Director and Head of Employment Law, says: “Pregnancy and maternity discrimination in the workplace continues to be a growing issue. Our Employment Law team continues to advise numerous employers who have inadvertently treated pregnant women or women on maternity leave unfavourably. We also advise a large number of employees who had been unfairly dismissed because of their pregnancy or have been unfairly selected for redundancy as they tried to return to work from maternity leave.
It is important that we continue to educate and support employers while advising employees of their employment law rights, so that we stamp out pregnancy and maternity discrimination once and for all.”
Fiona continues: “Common scenarios include employers counting maternity related sickness when using sick leave as a criteria for making people redundant. Another example is where an employer fails to appreciate that a woman on maternity leave has priority over all other employees if there is competition for a suitable alternative role.
For employees we still act for pregnant women who have advised their employer they are pregnant and the employer wrongly believes that they can dismiss without any consequences because they don’t have two years’ service. We also act for a large number of women who, when they are due to return from maternity leave, belatedly find out that their job has ‘disappeared’ and they are being made redundant. We help women raise grievances and negotiate compensation through Settlement Agreements, to avoid lengthy, stressful and expensive Employment Tribunal claims.”
Fiona says: “Our pregnancy and maternity campaign highlights this type of gender inequality in UK workplaces. Our free advice and training is provided to work towards making workplaces discrimination-free.”
To support their campaign, Martin Searle Solicitors have produced a series of factsheets, case studies and FAQs for employers and employees covering basic pregnancy and maternity rights in the workplace, returning to work after maternity, as well as avoiding pregnancy and maternity discrimination in redundancy processes. For more details visit www.ms-solicitors.co.uk.
Martin Searle Solicitors will also be running a virtual seminar for employers in the charity and non-profit sector on ‘Pregnancy and Maternity Discrimination – Best Practice for Employers’ on Thursday 14 March 2024 from 10.30am - 12pm, in association with Community Works. To book, see here.
On Thursday 21 March 2024, from 10.30am – 12pm, Martin Searle Solicitors will also be running a free virtual seminar on ‘Pregnancy and Maternity Discrimination – A Guide for Advisers representing Employees and Workers’. To book, click here.
For confidential advice, employers, workers and employees can call Martin Searle Solicitors’ free pregnancy and maternity legal helpline on Tuesdays and Thursdays throughout March from 3.30pm to 5.30pm on 01273 609911, or email email@example.com.