Our Employment Solicitor Angharad Aspinall looks at the latest report released by the Women and Equalities Select Committee on pregnancy and maternity discrimination. 

The Government has recently announced that, following the outcome of a report by the Women and Equalities Select Committee on pregnancy and maternity discrimination, it will consult on options to ensure new and expectant mothers in work have sufficient protections in redundancy.

The report which was released in the spring of 2016, demonstrated that pregnancy discrimination had in fact increased by almost double from 2005 with 54,000 women a year being forced out of their jobs due to pregnancy discrimination, and 53,000 a year felt pressured by their employer to miss antenatal appointments. The full research and findings can be found here.

Although the Government’s commitment to stamping out pregnancy and maternity discrimination is a step in the right direction, some believe that this was a missed opportunity to make a real difference in tackling inequality and demonstrating a zero-tolerance approach to such discrimination at work. Maria Miller, chair of the women and equalities committee said “new protections are needed, particularly for women who have casual or zero-hours employment arrangements, for ensuring that risks in the workplace for pregnant women are addressed, and for guarding against discriminatory redundancies after women return to work.”

Some of the recommendations from the 2016 report were not taken forward including suggestions that the time limit to bring an employment tribunal claim for new and expectant mothers should be extended. Currently claims for discrimination need to be submitted within three months of the alleged act of discrimination and if submitted after that, a Judge will only allow the claim to proceed if he or she considers it is ‘just and equitable’ to do so.

The reason for refusing to review the time limits is that, in the Government’s view, the report did not suggest that mothers who had considered bringing a claim did not do so because of the three-month time limit. The Government has confirmed that they remain committed to providing both courts and claimants with information about existing flexibilities in the employment tribunal system to extend the time limit for bringing a case.

No date has been set when we can expect the consultation to open. The Government’s full response to the 2016 report can be found here.