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Pregnancy/Maternity Discrimination and The Gender Pay Gap
I have written previously about the jointly published Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s (EHRC) pregnancy and maternity discrimination research findings.
This research found that 77% of mothers reported a negative or possibly discriminatory experience during their pregnancy, maternity leave or upon their return to work, and 11% were either made redundant, dismissed or treated so badly they had no option but to leave their job. A further 10% said they had been discouraged from attending antenatal appointments by their employer.
Astonishingly, the findings revealed that discrimination had worsened since the Equal Opportunities Commission undertook similar research a decade previously. The Government broadly accepted most of the recommendations made by BIS/EHRC, however they failed to set out any detail as to how they intended to implement these.
On the back of this research and the Government’s response, the Women and Equalities Committee (which was appointed by the House of Commons on 3rd June 2015 to examine the expenditure, administration and policy of the Government Equalities Office) launched an inquiry into the situation and their report was published recently. It made six key recommendations:
- A detailed plan, including a timeline, as to how the Government intends to implement the EHRC’s recommendations.
- A requirement for employers to undertake a risk assessment when they are made aware a woman is pregnant, has given birth in the preceding 6 months, or is breastfeeding.
- The extension of paid time off for ante-natal appointments to workers, and a wider review of pregnancy and maternity rights of workers.
- An increase in protection from redundancy for women who are pregnant or on maternity leave, and for 6 months following maternity leave, similar to the protection which exists in Germany, to the extent that redundancies are only permitted in specified circumstances.
- The 3-month time limit to bring a claim for pregnancy or maternity discrimination in an Employment Tribunal should be reviewed (with a suggested extension of 6 months), and the fee for bringing a claim should be substantially reduced.
- The provision of free advice in respect of these issues should be monitored and there should be consideration as to whether additional resources are required.
This research serves as a timely reminder to employers of the importance of ensuring they do not discriminate against pregnant women or new mothers. Employers should carefully consider any issues which may arise with employees who are pregnant, on maternity leave or returning to work, and ensure they have robust policies and procedures in place which document how such situations should be dealt with and that they act in accordance with these. Where in doubt, employers should seek legal advice as to how to deal with the issue, in order to avoid complex and costly discrimination claims being brought against them.
Gender pay gap
The Women and Equalities Committee’s report comes on back of the recent Institute for Fiscal Studies’ research which found that women earn 18% less than men on average, and that this gap consistently widens for 12 years once a woman has children, leaving the woman being paid 33% less per hour than her male counterpart.
There is an impending obligation for all private and voluntary sector employees with 250 or more employees to collect data on the gender pay gap, with this requirement expected to come into force in early 2017. Thereafter, the first requirement for companies to report their gender pay gap data is anticipated to fall in April 2018.
Is there a pay gap in your organisation?
Larger employers should therefore be taking steps now to identify whether gender pay gap reporting requirements will apply to them, and to plan how they will collate and publish the requisite data. Employers would also be well advised to perform a calculation to determine their gender pay gap and consider the result.
Issues surrounding working mothers are a hot topic at the moment and likely to be on the Government’s agenda moving forwards; it is therefore imperative that employers are alive to any changes which may be introduced and ensure compliance with them.
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