Shocking figures from Citizens Advice reveal a 25 per cent rise in the number of pregnant women and new parents seeking advice over alleged maternity discrimination in the workplace.
The same research also reveals a 22 per cent rise in the number of people seeking online advice and support, with the Citizens Advice website visited around 22,000 times in the last 12 months alone.
Almost 2,000 people turned to the charity between April 2015 and March 2016, up from 1,500 on the same period the previous year, with four out of five experiencing problems at work such as forced redundancy or being pushed out of their job.
People report being “encouraged” to reduce working hours, pressurised into returning to work too early and even pushed on to controversial zero-hours contracts, which can offer little or no guarantee of hours and often come with reduced working rights.
In extreme cases, some people have even been forced out of their jobs.
Citizens Advice cites the example of a women who turned to the charity after her weekly hours were slashed by half, with her boss shamelessly claiming there wasn’t enough work available to keep her on her previous hours/contract, whilst also employing new staff at the same time.
Another women was denied maternity pay whilst being told that her employment contract had been terminated whilst she was on maternity leave.
The damning study follows earlier research from the Equality and Human Rights Commission, who found that 77 per cent of mothers experience negative or possibly discriminatory treatment at work, including during pregnancy or upon returning to their place of work.
Citizens Advice Chief Executive Gillian Guy said: “Pregnant women should be supported at work, not made to fear for their livelihood.
“It is concerning that more and more new and expectant mums are experiencing discrimination issues at work.
“People with a baby on the way will have a lot on their minds already. The last thing they need is a threat to their income or job security.
“All employers should respect and uphold the rights of staff who are new parents or expecting a baby.
“Anyone with concerns about pregnancy or maternity discrimination can get free, impartial advice from their their local Citizens Advice or go to www.citizensadvice.org.uk.”
Citizens Advice is offering advice for new and expectant mums to help them make the most of their maternity rights at work.
Know your rights (Citizens Advice):
- When to tell your employer you are pregnant. You must tell your employer you are pregnant at least 15 weeks before your due date to make sure you will be able to take maternity leave and time off for ante-natal care.
- How to claim Statutory Maternity Pay or Maternity Allowance. Ask your midwife or GP to give you a claim form or you can download it from www.gov.uk/employers-maternity-pay-leave/entitlement.
- Where to find out about your maternity rights. You can get helpful information from the ACAS helpline on 0300 123 1100 or the EHRC website.
- How to work out what pay you are entitled to. You can check your legal entitlements using the government’s online calculator. Check your contract or speak to your employer to see if they offer any extra support.
- Where to go if things go wrong. Sometimes your employer may not know your rights and you may feel you’re not being treated fairly. You can find out more at www.citizensadvice.org.uk or contact your local Citizens Advice for help.
Commenting on the new figures released by Citizens Advice, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities, Kate Green MP, said:
“The 25 per cent increase in the number of people asking for advice on pregnancy and maternity issues in the past year is cause for alarm.
“The government has known for some time that maternity discrimination is on the increase yet has failed to put measures in place to protect mothers in the workplace.
“Under this Tory government it now costs up to £1200 to bring a maternity discrimination claim to an employment tribunal which has seen fewer than one per cent of women experiencing maternity discrimination now bringing forward a claim.
“The government must urgently outline its strategy to tackling this issue and reverse the alarming increase in levels of maternity discrimination on its watch.”