Pregnancy and Maternity Discrimination in the Workplace
Research shows that pregnancy and maternity discrimination in the workplace persists. And what is even more concerning is that according to some researchers, it is getting worse rather than the other way around. A recent study found that up to 54,000 women in Britain may be compelled to leave their jobs due to discrimination.
Pregnancy and Maternity Discrimination in the Workplace Unacceptably Common
According to a recent study that investigated discrimination of pregnant women and new mothers in the workplace, 11 percent of women included in the study were dismissed, made redundant or forced to leave their job through indirect pressures just because of their pregnancy/maternity. If applied to all working women who are pregnant or recently gave birth, this would mean that more than 50,000 women in Britain are unlawfully driven out of the workforce.
The same study also found that pregnant women and new mothers also experience other forms of discrimination in the workplace including negative remarks and comments, being denied promotion or bonuses, given workloads, etc. A similar study on the issue that was conducted a decade ago found that 7 percent of new and expectant mums were compelled to leave their jobs due to discrimination. This means that pregnancy and maternity discrimination in the workplace is on the rise.
Protection Against Pregnancy and Maternity Discrimination in the Workplace Under the Equality Act 2010
Under the Equality Act 2010, it is unlawful to treat a woman unfairly just because she’s pregnant or recently gave birth. Both pregnancy and maternity are protected characteristics, and therefore, any unfavourable treatment automatically means unlawful discrimination. However, the law provides protection against pregnancy, pregnancy-related illness and maternity only for a limited period of time or the so-called protected period. The latter starts at the beginning of pregnancy and ends with the end of the maternity leave or return to work. Women who experience discrimination after the end of the protected period may file a complain because of sex discrimination.
Preventing Pregnancy and Maternity Discrimination in the Workplace
Employers mustn’t treat a woman unfavourably just because she is pregnant, breastfeeding or on a maternity leave. But they also must take measures to ensure that they are not being harassed or treated badly in any way by other workers, both colleagues and managers. The easiest and most effective way to prevent pregnancy and maternity discrimination in the workplace is to implement all legal requirements and recommendations on discrimination prevention which should also include employee education and training on the issue.