Almost 2,000 people turned to Citizens Advice for help with pregnancy and maternity discrimination issues between April 2015 and March 2016; an increase of almost 25 per cent on the previous year. A survey conducted by the Equality and Human Rights Commission recently revealed that three in four mothers had negative or possibly discriminatory experiences during pregnancy, maternity leave, and on returning to work.
In the light of this apparent increase in pregnancy and maternity discrimination, it’s more important than ever that employers take steps to support new mothers on their return to work. Aside from avoiding potentially costly tribunal claims, there are a number of proven advantages to having a well-balanced workforce including increased staff morale, reduced staff turnover and better overall efficiency.
Pregnancy and maternity discrimination in the workplace is, of course, against the law (except in very limited circumstances). Employers are prohibited from treating employees unfavourably either because of their pregnancy (or an illness arising from it) or because they are on maternity leave or trying to exercise their right to maternity leave. It’s worth noting that while indirect discrimination and harassment claims cannot be made on the grounds of pregnancy or maternity, there’s nothing to stop employees claiming they have been harassed or indirectly discriminated against on the grounds of sex during pregnancy or maternity leave. Compensation for successful discrimination claims is uncapped, so such claims pose a significant financial risk to employers as well as a reputational risk.
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