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Maternity discrimination puts lives at risk

The government is being urged to introduce tough new measures to clamp down on the “shocking” rise in maternity and pregnancy discrimination.

The move comes after a report carried out by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills and the Equality and Human Rights Commission, highlighted the scale of the problem in the UK.

Findings showed that the lives of babies and mums are being put at risk as up to 53,000 mums a year are actively discouraged by their employers from taking time off work to attend antenatal appointments. 

After the birth of the baby, the working life of a new mum is being made incredibly difficult with up to 54,000 forced out of their jobs each year by their employers, through redundancy or dismissal. And as many as 100,000 women each year are subject to harassment or negative comments from their employers over either their pregnancy or flexible working, which is a right available to all new parents.

Sarah Naylor, specialist employment law solicitor at Atherton Godfrey, said: “Some employers will blatantly flout the law, but many are simply not aware of their legal obligations towards working mothers under the Employment Rights Act and Maternity and Parental Leave Regulations. It’s important to note that these legal obligations apply throughout the period of employment, including the recruitment process, the promotion and training opportunities made available to pregnant women or new mums and of course, how the redundancy selection process is applied during pregnancy or maternity.”

Maria Miller, chair of the Commons Women and Equality Committee warns that failing to clamp down on discrimination could have an effect on the economy as there are now record numbers of women in work across the UK.

She also adds that British women should have the same workplace protection as our German counterparts where employers are banned from making mothers redundant unless there are exceptional circumstances.

The committee also recommends extending the right to paid time off for ante-natal appointments so that casual, agency and zero-contract workers are included and increasing the time limit to bring discrimination claims from 3 months to 6 months, as well as a substantial cut in the current £1,200 fee for going to an employment tribunal.

Anyone who would like more information about their legal obligations or legal rights can contact Atherton Godfrey on 01302 320621 or email

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