More than 50,000 women are forced out of their job every year as a result of maternity discrimination. Research conducted by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy estimates that one in nine women are either fired after a return to work, or treated in such a way that they are forced out of their jobs. The government has announced a consultation on extending redundancy protections for women and new parents, as well as tackling pregnancy and maternity discrimination, which runs until early April. Kelly Tolhurst, the Business Minister, said that “some new mothers still find unacceptable attitudes on their return to work which effectively forces them out of their jobs”.
“People in this country already benefit from some of the most rigorous workplace standards in the world, including parental leave and pay entitlements, but we are determined to do even more as we leave the EU.” – Theresa May
Under the proposed plan, legal protection would be brought in against redudancy for six months after returning from maternity leave, and such provisions may be extended to those returning to work following adoption or shared parental leave, including for men. These proposals would go beyond the provisions that currently exist under EU requirements, as Theresa May says the government are “determined to do even more as we leave the EU” to protect workers rights.
Penny Mordaunt, Secretary of State for International Development And Minister for Women and Equalities, has welcomed the move saying that “for too long, brilliant, talented women have been pushed out of their chosen industry because employers will not support them to return to work after having children” which she describes as resulting in “wasted talent and wasted investment”.
The consultation has been welcomed by Mumsnet, whose founder Justine Roberts has described maternity discrimination as a “multifaceted problem requiring a change in attitude and culture as well as legislation”. The charity Working Families has said that such discrimination “isn’t just bad news for families: it’s also bad news for the economy”.