News of a pregnant MP being reprimanded for taking a snack break has brought to light the issue of maternity discrimination at work.
MP for Hampstead and Kilburn, Tulip Siddiq, entered the House of Commons Chamber at 12:30pm and gave a speech at 2:30pm, before leaving to get food at around 2:45pm.
The House of Commons has rules that dictate that anyone who speaks at a debate should stay and listen to the next speech. The usual practice is for a speaker to remain inside the chamber for the following two speeches or more.
When Ms Saddiq returned to the Chamber, she was called over by the Deputy Speaker, Eleanor Liang. Although Ms Saddiq apologised she was allegedly told, “You’ve made women look bad. People will think that women can’t follow the conventions of the House because they’re pregnant.”
Mrs Liang allegedly added, “You’re bringing down the whole of womankind.”
Talking about the incident to the Evening Standard, Ms Saddiq said: “I think it shows the conventions of the House are outdated for anyone, let alone for pregnant women or people with health issues. In certain cases, people should be given leeway to leave without having to go through an administrative process. Elsewhere in society, that would just be common sense.”
Guidance from the NHS recommends that pregnant women eat often, take some supplements and maintain a healthy balanced diet. It would seem to be common sense for the House of Commons to make concessions for pregnant women so that they can eat when their body tells them they need to. Whilst the House of Commons has its particular rules this story highlights that perhaps it should be bound by the requirements of anti-discrimination legislation applicable to other workplaces.
Are the conventions surrounding debates in the Chambers out-dated? Should the House of Commons change their rules for pregnant women? Let us know what you think in the comments below.
Slater and Gordon represent people who experience maternity discrimination at work. If you suspect your employer is failing to make adequate provision for your health and safety while you are pregnant at work call our employment law solicitors on freephone 0800 916 9060 or contact us online.