Women returning from maternity leave are more likely to face discrimination in the workplace than they were a decade ago, according to a study conducted by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
The EHRC report, published in 2015, estimates that around 54,000 new mothers lose their jobs across Britain every year – almost twice the number identified in similar research undertaken in 2005.
It also found that 10% of women were discouraged from attending antenatal appointments by their employers, putting the health of mother and baby at risk.
Among the other headline statistics contained in the report were:
· One in five new mothers – as many as 100,000 mothers a year – experienced harassment or negative comments from colleagues when pregnant or returning from maternity leave;
· 7% said they were put under pressure to hand in their notice;
· One in 20 reported receiving a cut in pay or bonus after returning to their job.
It is against that backdrop that action group Pregnant then Screwed have launched a campaign to give expectant and new mums greater access to justice when they have suffered discrimination.
They have joined forces with a team of law students from Warwick University in a bid to increase the time limit to take a case of maternity discrimination to tribunal from three months to six months.
Joeli Brearley, founder of Pregnant then Screwed, says: “As many as 54,000 women a year lose their jobs for getting pregnant, yet less than 1% of victims use the law to protect themselves.
“Pregnant women and new mums are enduring appalling treatment in the workplace and we need to find ways to protect them better.”
So what are the facts?
Time limits for bringing a claim are strictly enforced but the employment tribunal does have discretion to extend it where it’s just and equitable to do so, bearing in mind:
• The reasons and length of the delay;
• The effect of the delay on the evidence;
• The steps you took to get advice once you knew of the possibility of taking action.
The three-month cut-off can also be extended with ACAS Early Conciliation, which attempts to resolve workplace disputes as early as possible.
Although campaigners say only 1% of victims use the law to protect themselves, sex discrimination claims are one of the most frequently brought claims in the employment tribunals.
However, what is often more likely to deter expectant and new mums from making a claim are the fees – £1,200 in total – and the fact that legal costs are not recoverable even if a claim succeeds.
How can Gotelee help?
Discrimination is distressing and damaging and has no place in the modern workplace. If you feel you are being discriminated against at work, Gotelee Solicitors’ team of employment law specialists in Ipswich, Hadleigh, Felixstowe, Woodbridge or Melton can help you.
Our team of employment law solicitors has a proven track record in successfully handling workplace disputes and making sure that your rights are always protected. We’ll work closely with you, giving supportive and expert practical advice in a cost-effective way. There is no aspect of employment law that we have not successfully dealt with, so whatever your employment problem, we can help you.
To find out more, contact us on 01473 298102 or by email at [email protected]