The news that charity worker Teri Cumlin was discriminated against and unfairly dismissed at work because of her pregnancy is just one of many cases where women have been subjected to maternity discrimination. Being advised to terminate a pregnancy in the interests of your career, as in Ms Cumlin’s case, is clearly an extreme case of maternity discrimination at work.
Pregnancy and maternity discrimination is when your employer treats you unfairly because you’re pregnant or because you’ve recently had a baby, and you suffer a disadvantage as a result - for example, if you're dismissed or refused a promotion. Bad attitudes towards pregnancy at work are commonplace. Employers should be supportive towards new parents as a happy workforce is a productive workforce. A lack of support can lead to stress and the need for time off work, yet 59% of mums working in entry level positions found that their employers gave them no support above that which is legally required before their maternity leave commenced.
At Slater and Gordon, we hear from many women who have been side-lined at work after announcing their pregnancy. Some women are taken off large client accounts; meanwhile others have no role to return to just because they have had a baby. Others have their role changed, sometimes without even being consulted when they are on leave - which is effectively a step down from the job they performed before announcing their pregnancy.
We also see a large number of women who are subjected to maternity discrimination by employers who have made them redundant whilst on maternity leave. It may be unlawful to dismiss a woman because of taking maternity leave, although your role may be made redundant if this is a genuine redundancy whilst on maternity leave. You should, however, be offered a suitable alternative role if there is one available.
Shared Parental Leave has the potential to make a positive difference by facilitating a cultural shift where men become equals in parenting. Each year 285,000 expecting partners in the UK will find themselves able to share the responsibility of childcare with Shared Parental Leave. If utilised effectively, in combination with KIT or SPLIT days couples may find it easier to manage their careers effectively.
Slater and Gordon Lawyers can help if you experience maternity discrimination at work. We have 18 offices spread across the UK. For an initial consultation call us on freephone 0800 916 9060 or contact us online.