Government spending £1m to tackle pregnancy discrimination
The government is launching an independent research programme to tackle the problem of workplace discrimination against pregnant women.
The Minister for Women and Equalities, Maria Miller, has given the go-ahead for the project which will analyse the effect of pregnancy discrimination on both families and the economy.
The £1m study will be carried out by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC). The EHRC is also keen to raise awareness of the issues they find so that both employers and employees are aware of their rights and responsibilities.
The EHRC chief executive Mark Hammond said: “This is an important issue and this work, along with the other efforts being made to tackle pregnancy discrimination, will reduce the chances of women being unfairly penalised.”
It is nearly 10 years since the government last carried out research into these issues. That study found that half of all pregnant women felt they were discriminated against over issues such as maternity leave. More than 30,000 women felt they were being forced out of their jobs.
It also revealed that many pregnant women were being dismissed before they were entitled to maternity pay, which resulted in families losing out on nearly £12m per year.
Following the study, many of the problems were rectified. Parents were given more rights at work such as paid time off to attend hospital and doctors’ appointments, and an increase in statutory maternity leave and pay.
However, discrimination against pregnant women still exists. Since 2007, more than 9,000 pregnancy discrimination claims have been brought against employers in the UK.
Mrs Miller said:”It’s unacceptable that women suffer from discrimination when they become pregnant and yet many are saying that they are treated unfairly at work because of it.
“I am determined that we tackle these systemic problems which leave women feeling undervalued and penalised. We have made some significant changes to help women at work but there is more to do. This new research will be crucial in helping us to understand the extent of the problem and the issues around it.”
Women who feel they are suffering discrimination at work are entitled to claim compensation.
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