A recent report by the women and equalities committee revealed that 54,000 women lost their jobs in 2015 as a result of pregnancy discrimination, and that pregnant women and mothers are subject to more discrimination today than they were 10 years ago.
UK legislation already places a strict burden on employers to ensure pregnant employees and mothers are protected, treated equally and provided with rights, and to undertake risk assessments when they are informed an employee is pregnant to ensure safe working conditions.
Good practice for employers in dealing with potential discrimination:
• Deal with any performance issues as soon as they arise. If they are suddenly raised when an employee announces a pregnancy, it will look as though they’re being raised because of the pregnancy.
• Ensure swift risk assessments as soon as you are notified of an employee’s pregnancy to ensure that they have safe working conditions.
• Comply with basic minimum rights; for example, time off for antenatal appointments and supporting women who suffer difficult pregnancies.
• If any sickness occurs during pregnancy and the employee is brought into a disciplinary hearing for this then any illness relating to the pregnancy should be discounted.
• Carry out a thorough investigation before any disciplinary meeting, probation review or employment review, taking the longer procedure as best practice – even if employees are under the two-year service mark. If there are issues relating to discrimination then an employee will have the right to claim automatic unfair dismissal and discrimination, regardless of length of service.
• Maintain reasonable communication throughout maternity leave.