New bill proposes to protect new mothers from redundancy

Submitted by sglenister on Fri, 24/05/2019 - 14:09

24 May 2019

The Pregnancy and Maternity (Redundancy Protection) Bill 2019 was brought to Parliament this week, seeking to protect new mothers from losing their jobs.

Proposals in the ten-minute Rule Bill, brought by Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee Maria Miller, would prohibit employers from making women redundant from the point she notifies them of her pregnancy until six months after the end of her maternity leave.

The move comes after the government failed to respond adequately to a 2016 report from the Committee noting a "shocking" rise in discrimination against pregnant women in the workplace.

Although the government recently launched a consultation into extending for an additional six months pregnant womens' right to be offered a suitable alternative vacancy if they are made redundant during maternity leave, Miller stated "it would not solve the problem".

"The law as it currently stands is too often ignored or circumvented by employers, either because it is poorly understood or due to ingrained stereotypes about new mothers’ place in the workplace, so the existing protection does not work," she explained when launching her Bill in Parliament on Tuesday (24 May 2019).

The original recommendations of the Committee – which were based on successful legislation in Germany – included changes to health and safety practices, better rights for casual, agency and workers on zero-hours contracts, and redundancy protections for pregnant women.

While the new Bill does not cover all of these proposals, Maria Miller stated that it was a "really good start".

In Parliament on Tuesday (21 May 2019), Miller cited Equality and Human Rights Commission research that found one in 20 pregnant women and new mothers are made redundant, and that over 50,000 pregnant women find themselves with "no alternative" but to leave their job.

"It is a scandal that in 2019 so many women should be fearful of losing their jobs simply because they are pregnant," she said.

"Rather than simply extending the existing protections, which we know do not go far enough, we need robust legislation that takes the onus off women."

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