Under the Equality Act 2010 it is against the law to treat someone less favourably or to pay them less due to their sex or for being pregnant/on maternity leave. However, recent research compiled by the Equality and Human Commission has found that over three out of four mothers (77%) have faced negative or discriminatory experiences directly before, during or after maternity leave and that an estimated 54,000 women are forced out of their job each year due to pregnancy. A similar report compiled by the charity Citizens Advice has also found that 3,307 women contacted the charity Citizens Advice for help with maternity leave problems in the year to June 2016 – an almost 60% increase in the past year alone.
The evidence of workplace discrimination of pregnant women has led to The Women and Equalities Committee calling for UK women to have increased protections including changes to health and safety practices, preventing discriminatory redundancies and an increase in protection for casual, agency and zero-hours workers. MPs have also called for the Government to publish a detailed plan within the next two years or risk a further rise in pregnant women and mothers being forced out of their work.
The above research also raises wider concerns about the gender pay gap in the workplace. A recent report published by the Institute for Fiscal Studies has said that women in the UK returning to work after having a baby fall even further behind men in earning power with the gap between hourly earnings of the two sexes becomes steadily wider after women become mothers. Over the subsequent 12 years, women’s hourly pay rate falls 33% behind men’s.
The government has already taken steps to introduce gender pay gap reporting requirements for larger businesses with over 250 employees. Most recently the government issued a consultation paper setting out plans for gender pay reporting to be expanded to the public sector. It is understood that large public sector bodies with 250 or more employees will be subject to the same gender pay gap reporting requirements as in the voluntary and private sectors. It is also thought that the public sector gender pay reporting regulations shall be introduced in early 2017.
Should you or your business require any further guidance on the above points or on discrimination claims then please contact us on 0161 672 1246.