It was announced late last year that the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is to conduct research into pregnancy and maternity discrimination in the UK. This will bring the data up to date as the last time research was conducted was in 2005. It was discovered then that millions of pounds were lost to women in terms of maternity pay as they were dismissed before they could claim it.
From my own experience I would say that pregnancy and maternity discrimination is rife in the UK as I am often contacted by women who are receiving unfair treatment in the workplace whilst they are expecting a baby or are on maternity leave. Often coming back to work is difficult particularly when flexible working is requested. Some employers have even said to me off the record that they would not employ a young woman for fear of her going off on maternity leave.
Employment tribunal figures will add weight to my own experience showing that workplace discrimination is increasing. The 2011/2012 annual statistics record that there were 10,800 sex discrimination claims with an additional 28,800 equal pay claims and 1,900 pregnancy related claims. This picture will more than likely be reflected in the e 2012/2013 statistics. The quarterly statistics for April to June 2013 revealed a 40% increase in sex discrimination claims in that period.
It does not help that the leader of UKIP, Nigel Farage, has recently announced the abolition of maternity pay if the party came to power and that women who take time off to have children are worth less to their employers. Hardly the views of a progressive political leader in tune with the progressive modern day thinking.
With the one million pound budget researchers will look at employment practices in the workplace in relation to pregnant women or those on maternity leave to gauge the extent of unequal and unfair treatment to seek the causes and effects. The effect on families and the economy will be examined.
From the findings of the research project the EHRC will assess how best to raise awareness of pregnancy and maternity rights.