The Equality and Human Rights Commission has released their first findings from their surveys of employers and mothers.
The report is called Pregnancy and Maternity-Related Discrimination and Disadvantage and includes statistics on the following:
- employers providing support during pregnancy
- health and safety risk assessments upon returning to work
- mothers returning to work
Employers Providing Support During Pregnancy
The research found that most employers believe it is important to provide their staff with support during pregnancy because it helps them to retain their staff.
84 per cent of the employers surveyed by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) saw it in their businesses’ interests to support their workers on maternity leave and their pregnant employees.
The survey, which interviewed mothers as well as employers, also revealed that most mothers felt supported by their employer. However, at some point during pregnancy or upon returning to work a third of mothers felt unsupported. Twelve per cent felt treated less favourably by their line manager as a result of their pregnancy.
Details of their individual circumstances are not known, but where women are treated less favourably because they are pregnant or take maternity leave, the law is clear. This is unlawful, so these women would expect to succeed in a case for maternity discrimination.
Health and Safety Risk Assessments Upon Returning to Work
Employers are required to do a general health and safety risk assessment for all their employees. Since the workforce generally includes women of child-bearing age, this should also include consideration of any risks to pregnant women or unborn children.
There is then a further health and safety risk assessment obligation when an expectant mother notifies her employer she is pregnant. This is specific to the individual employee and the systems, processes and environment she works in.
The EHRC survey found nearly all employers undertook a risk assessment for all of their employees. Most of these employers identified risks for pregnant women and mothers returning to work, but 19 per cent of mums said they had identified risks that their employer didn’t.
Importantly, if any risks to the pregnant employee or her unborn child are identified, the employer must take urgent action to address these. If they cannot be resolved, it may be necessary to provide suitable alternative work, or even place the employee on (fully paid) leave until the risk is no longer an issue. Crucially, that may mean remaining off work and on full pay for the entire duration of your pregnancy.
This is a very powerful right. An employer cannot simply ignore the risks or allow pregnant women or breastfeeding mothers to operate in a hazardous environment.
Mothers Returning to Work
Sadly, nine per cent of the mothers surveyed said they were treated better before they got pregnant.
Upon returning to work after having a child, five per cent of mothers had their salary or bonus reduced. If this was due to pregnancy or maternity leave, it is unlawful discrimination – clear and simple. The law is there to protect you.
Having a child is something to celebrate, yet 20 per cent of mums experienced negative comments or harassment about their pregnancy or when they returned to work from their colleagues or employer.
15 per cent said they experienced humiliating, belittling or offensive treatment related to their pregnancy. Meanwhile, nine per cent received negative comments form a colleague or their employer as a result of their flexible working request being approved.
You do not need to suffer in silence. There is no legal defence to pregnancy or maternity discrimination. Employment law exists to protect you, and enable you to take action.
If you have experienced maternity discrimination at work Slater and Gordon can help provide you with expert legal advice. For a no obligation consultation call our employment law solicitors on freephone 0800 916 9060 or contact us online.