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New rules to protect thousands of mums from redundancy while on maternity leave

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Munbodh, Emma
Publication Date: 
28 Jan 2019


Thousands of women who return to work after maternity leave could be given greater protection from redundancy, under news plans to tackle workplace discrimination.

A new consultation is underway to extend legal protection for pregnant women - allowing it to continue for up to six months after they return to work.

The same rules would also apply to those who return from adoption or shared parental leave - including men who take time out to care for a new child.

According to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, 1 in 9 women have been fired or made redundant after returning to work, while many were treated so badly they felt forced out of their job.

The same research estimates 54,000 women a year may lose their jobs due to pregnancy or maternity.

Prime Minister Theresa May said: "People in this country already benefit from some of the most rigorous workplace standards in the world, including parental leave and pay entitlements, but we are determined to do even more as we leave the EU.

"It’s unacceptable that too many parents still encounter difficulties when returning to work. Today’s proposals are set to provide greater protection for new parents in the workplace, and put their minds at ease at this important time.

UK laws currently offer women up to 52 weeks of maternity leave – 39 weeks of which are paid. Self-employed women can also claim £145 a week - although this has come under criticism for being far too low.

Fathers also qualify for a statutory right to paternity leave and pay, while eligible parents can also share their allowance where the mother does not intend to use all of her maternity entitlements.

Business Minister Kelly Tolhurst added: "Pregnancy and maternity discrimination is illegal. But some new mothers still find unacceptable attitudes on their return to work which effectively forces them out of their jobs.

"Through the modern Industrial Strategy and the largest upgrade in workers’ rights in a generation, the government is building an economy that ensures everyone can progress at work. That’s why we are looking at ways to further protect new parents by giving them time to re-establish themselves in the workplace and show the value they bring to their employers."

Jane van Zyl, CEO of work-life balance charity Working Families, said: We hear from women struggling with pregnancy and maternity discrimination every single day on our helpline. But pregnancy and maternity discrimination isn’t just bad news for families; it’s also bad news for the economy.

"Whilst many of the companies we work with already understand the business benefits of family-friendly workplaces, some employers still don’t. Proposals to extend protection from redundancy to new mothers and parents returning to work should go a long way toward protecting their jobs – and to reducing the shocking number of women who lose their jobs due to pregnancy and maternity discrimination.

"Because more and more parents are sharing care equally, we welcome plans to ensure equal treatment for parents returning from Shared Parental Leave or adoption – bringing their rights in line with those enjoyed by women on maternity leave."

The consultation will run for 10 weeks and end on 5 April 2019.

Entered Date: 
30 Jan 2019
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