Extent of Pregnancy Prejudice

Extent of pregnancy prejudice in Britain's workplaces

Each year around 30,000 working women are sacked, made redundant or leave their jobs due to pregnancy discrimination, according to alarming new research findings released recently by the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC).

The research quantifies, for the first time, how many pregnant women and new mothers say they are experiencing discrimination in workplaces across the country.

Of the 441,000 pregnant women that are at work each year, the EOC's research report reveals that:

? Overall almost half (45%) of women who had worked while pregnant said they experienced some form of discrimination because of their pregnancy.

? A fifth (21%) said they lost out financially due to discrimination.

? One in 20 (5%) were put under pressure to hand in their notice when they announced their pregnancy.

The results were released as the EOC launched its 'Pregnant and Productive' campaign calling for urgent action to end unlawful treatment of pregnant women at work.

The EOC's campaign emphasises that the majority of employers are supportive of women during their pregnancy, and many are well aware of the business benefits of doing so. The EOC is working with employers and employees to find solutions to the problem.

Employees can also help themselves by being aware of their legal rights, says Julia Beasley, a solicitor specialising in Employment Law at Bristol law firm Burroughs Day.

For instance, during Ordinary Maternity Leave (OML), which lasts 26 weeks, a woman is entitled to the same terms and conditions (excluding pay) as if she had not been absent.

"This means that if she returns to work after OML, she is entitled to her job back - with any pay increases, seniority, pension and similar rights as if she had not been absent. And her period of OML must be treated as part of her continuous service when it comes to service-related benefits. "

"If the employer refuses to allow her to return to her old job following maternity leave, this is a dismissal. Depending on the circumstances, she may have a claim of unfair dismissal and sex discrimination."

"An employee who encounters problems should, in most cases, raise a detailed written grievance with her employer. If the problem is not sorted, she may be able to bring a claim in the Employment Tribunal. But the very first stage should be to take legal advice," adds Ms Beasley.

"If the employer refuses to allow her to return to her old job following maternity leave, this is a dismissal. Depending on the circumstances, she may have a claim of unfair dismissal and sex discrimination."

"An employee who encounters problems should, in most cases, raise a detailed written grievance with her employer. If the problem is not sorted, she may be able to bring a claim in the Employment Tribunal. But the very first stage should be to take legal advice," adds Ms Beasley.

Arabella Greatorex is the owner of http://www.naturalnursery.co.uk, an online store selling organic and fairly traded products for families including organic clothing and nappies, fairly traded toys and natural toiletries.

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