Plans to boost protections for pregnant women and new parents returning to work

The Government is planning to give greater protection to pregnant women and new parents returning to work.

Plans have been unveiled aimed at extending legal protections covering women on maternity leave, to other parents such as those on adoption or shared leave.

The Business Department said its research found that one in nine women had been fired or made redundant when they return to work after having a child, or were treated so badly they felt forced out of their job.

The study suggested that 54,000 women may lose their jobs due to pregnancy or maternity every year.

Prime Minister Theresa May said: “People in this country already benefit from some of the most rigorous workplace standards in the world, including parental leave and pay entitlements, but we are determined to do even more as we leave the EU.

“It’s unacceptable that too many parents still encounter difficulties when returning to work. Today’s proposals are set to provide greater protection for new parents in the workplace, and put their minds at ease at this important time.”

The Government said the proposals go further than current EU requirements on maternity entitlements and parental leave.

Business Minister Kelly Tolhurst said: “Pregnancy and maternity discrimination is illegal, but some new mothers still find unacceptable attitudes on their return to work which effectively forces them out of their jobs.”

A 10-week consultation was launched, proposing that the legal protection against redundancy for pregnant women and new mothers on maternity leave is extended, to continue for up to six months after they return to work.

It will also seek views on giving the same protection to parents returning from adoption leave or shared parental leave.

Josh Hardie, deputy director general of the CBI, said: “Pregnancy and maternity discrimination is totally unacceptable. Providing the right environment for parents to return to work with confidence and develop their careers should be high on the list of employers’ priorities.”

A spokesman for the conciliation service Acas said: “Women should not face unfair treatment while pregnant or during their return to work. This consultation provides a valuable opportunity to explore experiences, and the opportunities for greater protection.”

Rebecca Hilsenrath, chief executive at the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said: “Everyone has the right to work and a working environment that allows them to achieve their full potential.

“Sadly far too many employers still live in the dark ages, penalising parents and putting them at risk of losing their jobs just for having a child.

“These proposals are a positive step towards ensuring workplaces are the best they can be for pregnant women and new parents.”

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Anthony Devlin / PA Wire.