Responding to research conducted in March 2016 by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the Women and Equalities Committee has called upon the Government to take more decisive and urgent action to combat the increasing discrimination pregnant women and mothers are reporting.
It its report, Pregnancy and maternity discrimination (31 August 2016), the Committee made a number of recommendations, including:
- Requiring employers to undertake an individual risk assessment when they are informed that a woman who works for them is pregnant, has given birth in the past six months or is breastfeeding, and calling upon the Health and Safety Executive to include this requirement in its guidance by the end of 2016.
- Reviewing the pregnancy and maternity-related rights available to workers to give greater parity with employees. The Committee is particularly concerned with the rights of casual, agency and zero-hours workers, a large percentage of which are women.
- Extending the right to paid time off for antenatal appointments to workers, not just employees.
- Giving new and expectant mothers extra protection from redundancy, so that they can only be made redundant in specified circumstances, as currently exists in Germany. Their recommendation is protection should apply throughout pregnancy and maternity leave and for six months after the woman’s return from maternity leave.
- Extending the current three-month time limit for bringing an employment tribunal claim for pregnancy and maternity discrimination.
- Substantially reducing employment tribunal fees to improve access to justice.
It remains to be seen whether a Government focussed on Brexit will implement any of these recommendations, although it should be noted that the Prime Minister, Theresa May, pledged at the Conservative party conference in October 2016 that “…existing workers’ legal rights will continue to be guaranteed in law…we’re going to see workers’ rights not eroded, and not just protected, but enhanced…”.