UK Lawmakers Are Demanding More Workplace Protections for Pregnant Women

Lifestyle During Pregnancy
A report last year said that pregnancy and maternity discrimination in the U.K. was more prevalent in 2015 than a decade earlier.
Daniel Berehulak/ Getty Images

Last week there was a string of bad news for pregnant women and moms in the U.K. First, British charity Citizens Advice said women are increasingly concerned about discrimination related to maternity leave. Then, the Institute of Fiscal Studies determined that women in the U.K. earn 18% less than men—a gap that skyrockets after women have children.

Those findings piled on a report last year by the Equality and Human Rights Commission that showed that pregnancy and maternity discrimination in the country was more prevalent in 2015 than a decade earlier. Eleven percent of women reported being either dismissed, made compulsorily redundant when others in their workplace were not, or being treated so poorly they felt they had to leave their job.

And it seems some members of parliament have had enough.

See also: British Women Face Increasing Discrimination For Taking Maternity Leave

The Commons Women and Equalities Committee on Wednesday released a set of recommendations that it wants to adopt. “The government must make changes in laws and protections to ensure a safe working environment for new and expectant mothers, to prevent discriminatory redundancies and to increase protection for casual, agency and zero-hours workers,” the committee said.

The MPs called on the government to “provide incentives and ensure better enforcement to encourage better employer practice.” Right now, individuals who experience discrimination bear the “burden of enforcement,” they said. And they have only three months to bring a claim of maternity and pregnancy bias before a tribunal—a statute of limitations the committee wants to extend.

See also: UK Women Tell Their Workplace Discrimination Stories on ‘Pregnant Then Screwed’

The MPs also said that tribunal fees should be lowered, and that workplace rights for pregnant women—specifically, paid time off for antenatal appointments—must be extended to workers in more casual employment arrangements. They said implementing protections similar to Germany’s, which ensure pregnant women can be made redundant only in certain circumstances, was the ultimate goal.

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Committee chair Maria Miller blasted the government’s current approach as “lack[ing] urgency and bite.”

“There are now record numbers of women in work in the U.K.,” she said in a statement. “The economy will suffer unless employers modernize their workplace practices to ensure effective support and protection for expectant and new mums.”

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