Thank you to everyone who has contacted me about protection against unfair redundancy for pregnant women and new mothers and Maria Miller MP’s Pregnancy and Maternity (Redundancy Protection) Bill.
I share your concerns about this important issue and agree that it is vital that we do more to protect women at work. While it is illegal to discriminate against women in the workplace because they are pregnant or take maternity leave, pregnancy and maternity discrimination continues to affect too many women every year. Indeed, the Equality and Human Rights Commission found that around one in nine mothers said they felt forced to leave their job.
This is particularly worrying at present, since it is women who are at risk of being worst hit by the financial consequences of coronavirus. The TUC has found that a quarter of pregnant women have faced discrimination at work during the pandemic, with some asked to leave the workplace because their employer did not make it safe for them.
As you will know, a report by the Women and Equalities Select Committee in August 2016 noted a “shocking” increase in workplace pregnancy and maternity discrimination over the previous decade. The report argued for a system like that used in Germany, under which new and expectant mothers can be made redundant only in specified circumstances.
The Government says it plans to extend the existing redundancy protection period for six months once a new mother has returned to work. I know that campaigners such as Maternity Action, while welcoming this as a step in the right direction, do not believe it goes far enough, as the current legal framework is insufficient to enforce the existing protections.
I am aware that the Pregnancy and Maternity (Protection from Redundancy) Bill aims to prohibit making employees redundant during pregnancy, maternity leave and the period of six months from the end of pregnancy. I can assure you that I will follow the progress of this Bill closely and continue to press at every possible opportunity for action to tackle pregnancy and maternity discrimination.