5 December 2014
A report published by the TUC shows that attitudes at work are still incredibly regressive, with the sacking, bullying and sidelining of pregnant women commonplace.
The Pregnancy Test: Ending Discrimination at Work for New Mothers documents how pregnancy can seriously affect a women’s career.
Commenting on the report, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said, “The law might have changed 40 years ago, but the way many employers behave when they discover an employee is pregnant suggests they are stuck in a 1970s time warp – back to an age when starting a family meant the end of paid work for women.
“This report shows that for many women what should be one of the happiest times of their lives soon becomes full of anxiety and stress – one where bullying, harassment and ill-treatment in the workplace is an unacceptably common experience.
“More needs to be done to drag old-fashioned employers into the 21st century so that mothers who work are as valued by their bosses as working fathers”.
She called for stronger rights to flexible working, and a rise in statutory pay for parental leave, which currently stands at only £138 a week.
Tribunal complaints involving pregnant women have gone up 20% since the beginning of the recession. From 2008-2013 more than 9000 women took their employers to a tribunal.
The report points out that the introduction of tribunal fees are a retrograde step for ending discrimination against expectant mothers; “Since July 2013, following the introduction of employment tribunal fees, women have had to pay an issue fee of £250 and a hearing fee of £950 to bring a claim of unfair dismissal or pregnancy or maternity discrimination. If you are on maternity leave receiving just £138 a week, with the expense of a new baby and upcoming childcare costs, £1,200 is likely to be a major deterrent to seeking justice. Pregnancy and maternity claims fell by a quarter following the introduction of fees”. Only half of claimants who were awarded compensation received full payment from the employer.
The research includes data from an online survey the TUC carried out earlier this year to uncover mistreatment by employers. The most common complaints include being sacked for being pregnant, receiving unpleasant comments and negative reactions to their pregnancy announcements, being prevented from attending ante-natal appointments, and being given dangerous or risky jobs to do. Other concerns were being overlooked for promotion or training, disciplined for pregnancy-related sickness absence, or denied the chance to work flexibly.
Last week (28 November) the National Childbirth Trust published research on parents’ experiences of returning to work after the birth of a child. Frances O’Grady said of the findings “This new research shows that employers need to do more to ensure that when their female employees go back to work after their maternity leave is over, their return is as straightforward and as stress-free as possible.”