This month, we are launching a “Discriminate No Mum” campaign to help stamp out maternity discrimination in the workplace: #DiscriminateNoMum

Ison Harrison has experienced several recent cases where clear maternity discrimination has taken place. We have represented clients in tribunal cases where women have been selected for redundancy who are either currently pregnant, or who have recently given birth and returned to work from maternity leave. Sadly, these are increasingly rare cases, and although we have seen a 75% increase in queries relating to maternity discrimination, the majority of women don’t feel they can pursue a case against an unscrupulous employer. Now we are leading a #DiscriminateNoMum campaign which seeks to highlight this shortfall in tribunal cases being pursued and calls for changes to be made to help women get access to justice.

What Is Maternity Discrimination?

Maternity discrimination can occur in a recruitment process or in an existing job, when a woman discovers she is pregnant, before she starts her maternity leave, or when she returns to work after her maternity leave. There are several ways in which discrimination happens, but however it occurs, there are too few women who feel they can pursue a tribunal case.

Typical examples of maternity discrimination are working hours being cut with no explanation when returning to work, female staff being put on zero hours contracts, or forced out of a job altogether, or being bullied and given a role with reduced responsibilities. Often discrimination can manifest itself in a perception of relationships and attitudes towards you changing, and this is difficult to prove, but this should not prevent you coming forward.

The tribunal process can last a long time, and you need to be brave to be able to pursue it. A case can affect your relationships at home and at work, it can overtake your life, and of course you also need significant funds to be able to progress your case. These factors are restricting the access to justice and Ison Harrison is leading the call for change.

Currently there is a three month window during which a woman can bring a maternity discrimination case to tribunal. We are leading the call for this to be extended to six months. Anybody who has experienced the joy of parenthood knows that the first three months can be stressful. Your health is affected and your life is turned upside down as you learn first-hand how difficult it is to raise a new born baby. It is therefore unreasonable to expect a new mother to have the time, patience and capacity to put a robust case together. On top of all that until recently there were tribunal fees to be considered in addition to the regular legal fees involved in pursuing a case.

Increasing the time limit to six months and reducing tribunal fees would allow more women to hold their employer to account, in situations where maternity discrimination is suspected.

When Does Maternity Discrimination Occur?

We have seen many cases where pregnant women or recent mothers are offered a settlement to leave a position, which is not a true redundancy. Furthermore, this settlement often includes a confidentiality clause, so the woman is effectively being paid off to stay silent, and there is a pressure to accept this pay off and avoid the time, cost and stress of pursuing a tribunal case and winning what you deserve.

Discrimination can also take place in the recruitment process and a recent report has found alarming examples of outdated attitudes and standards in the workplace. A 2015 report issued by the Equality and Human Rights Commission questioned 3024 employers and 3254 mothers. It found that 77% of pregnant women reported some form of negative experience related to their pregnancy, and 11% were subsequently forced to leave their job. The report also found that 25% of employers thought it was reasonable to ask a female about her plans for children at the interview stage. There was also a sizeable belief that women should be forced to declare their pregnancy at the recruitment stage.

Our law firm is based in West Yorkshire; a huge multi-cultural area of industry, commerce, leisure and business but maternity discrimination is one of the most frequent issues we are faced with. Our #DiscriminateNoMum campaign is encouraging victims of discrimination to speak out, but also to have the courage and conviction to pursue a case. To do that they need access to justice and for that we need the help of the Government to extend the time limit to bring a claim. Justice sends out a clear message to employers and our experience is that more people need to follow through on claims to make sure that message gets through.

Have you been affected by pregnancy discrimination? Call employment expert Yunus Lunat on 0113 284 5023 for a confidential chat.

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