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Mothers returning from maternity leave to be protected from redundancy under new proposals

Proposed legislation comes after study found one in five mothers said they had experienced harassment or negative comments linked to pregnancy in the workplace

Maya Oppenheim
Women's Correspondent
Tuesday 21 May 2019 10:02 BST
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The piece of legislation seeks to prohibit redundancy during pregnancy and maternity leave and for six months after the end of the pregnancy or leave apart from in specified circumstances
The piece of legislation seeks to prohibit redundancy during pregnancy and maternity leave and for six months after the end of the pregnancy or leave apart from in specified circumstances (Getty/iStock)

Mothers returning to work after maternity leave will be protected from being made redundant for six months under new legislation proposed by the chair of the Commons Women and Equalities committee.

Maria Miller, the Conservative MP for Basingstoke, will introduce the legislation which has cross-party support in a ten-minute rule bill on Tuesday.

The piece of legislation seeks to prohibit redundancy during pregnancy and maternity leave and for six months after the end of the pregnancy or leave apart from in specified circumstances.

Ms Miller said: “We warned almost three years ago of the significant discrimination and poor treatment faced by 54,000 pregnant women and mothers at work each year.

“Family life and the economy will both suffer unless workplace practices are brought into the 21st Century. Providing effective protection against redundancy for pregnant women would be a really good start.

"Whilst the recent Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) consultation is a step in the right direction, neither new parents nor the economy can afford to wait any longer for pregnant women and new mums to be confident of proper protection from redundancy which has been in place in Germany for many years.”

The BEIS launched a consultation in January which suggests legal protection against redundancy for new mothers should be extended for up to six months - current measures only offer such protection for two weeks. These rights may also be applied to new parents returning from shared parental leave and those who have taken leave after adopting a child.

The plans came after a study by the BEIS found that one in nine women have been sacked after going back to work from maternity leave. In some cases, these women felt they had been treated so poorly that they had been forced out of their jobs, or they had been made redundant.

The study calculated that these things had happened to roughly 54,000 women each year in the UK. It also found that one in five mothers said they had experienced harassment or negative comments linked to pregnancy in the workplace.

The Commons Women and Equalities committee published a report in August 2016 which called for urgent action - demanding for UK women to have protections similar to those in Germany after a “shocking” increase in workplace pregnancy discrimination over the past decade.

It asked the government to lay out a detailed plan within two years or risk an additional rise in pregnant women and mothers being forced out of work. Changes to health and safety practices, stopping discriminatory redundancies and an increase in protection for casual, agency and zero-hours workers were some of the recommendations which were included.

Ms Miller criticised the dearth of progress made, in spite of ministers having such a long time to introduce the recommendations made, in the committee’s submission to the government’s consultation on pregnancy and maternity discrimination protections, earlier this month.

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