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Widespread discrimination against pregnant women and new mums is ‘shocking’ says CSP

24 March 2016 - 2:12pm

Almost 400,000 pregnant women and new mothers experience negative and potentially discriminatory treatment at work each day, according to research for the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Members urged to back maternity rights campaigns

Pregnancy-related cases heard at employment tribunals have halved since fees of up to £1,200 were introduced

Almost 400,000 pregnant women and new mothers experience negative and potentially discriminatory treatment at work each day, according to research for the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Only 28 per cent of those affected raised the issue with their employer, only three per cent went through their employer’s internal grievance procedure. Fewer than one per cent pursued a claim to an employment tribunal, the research shows.

Jess Belmonte, the CSP’s equality officer, said the research highlighted ‘shocking’ levels of discrimination against pregnant women and those on maternity leave, despite their legal protection.

‘It’s not just unlawful, but short sighted,’ she said. ‘It’s in the interests of employers and quality patient care to retain experienced staff. Allowing our members to work flexibly, will help keep their skills and expertise in the NHS and address staff shortage and recruitment problems.’

The commission’s findings, based on interviews with 3,034 employers and 3,254 mothers, were published ahead of a CSP maternity rights campaign to be launched in late spring.

Kevin Dale, a CSP trade union organiser, added: ‘We have become aware of more and more cases of requests by our members for flexible working being turned down when they return from maternity leave.

‘The employer has to seriously consider any such requests and have a good business reason for refusing. But our evidence is that this often is not the case. Our campaign this spring is being launched as a direct result of feedback from physios.’

Ms Belmonte said that every year the CSP supports many members with discrimination and flexible working problems, and she urged anyone affected to speak to their steward.

The commission has called on the government to make improvements. Its recommendations include

  • take more effective steps to stop employers during recruitment asking women about their intention to have children
  • explore the feasibility of a collective insurance scheme to support small and medium sized employers to provide enhanced pay and cover for maternity leave
  • change the employment tribunal fee system so that fees are not a barrier to accessing justice for pregnant women and new mothers
  • consider increasing from three to six months the time limit for a woman to bring an employment tribunal case involving pregnancy and maternity discrimination


Maria Miller, chair of parliament’s women and equalities committee, expressed concerns about the findings and said her committee would be launching an inquiry.




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