The Government response to the Women and Equalities Select Committee’s first report of the 2016/17 session on pregnancy and maternity discrimination, which was published on the 31 August 2016, has been welcomed by Polegate MP, Maria Caulfield.
Since Maria is a member of the Women and Equalities Select Committee, she was instrumental in the composition of the report and her concerns were reflected in the report’s recommendations.
The first recommendation that the report made was to ensure that employers should be required to undertake an individual risk assessment when they are informed that a woman who works for them is pregnant, and that new and expectant mothers who are concerned that their own health or the health of their baby is being put at risk by their work have an easily accessible, formal mechanism to compel their employer to deal with such risks appropriately.
The Government has outlined its commitment to this issue by noting that the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recently accepted recommendations by the Equality and Human Rights Commission concerning this topic into legislation. The Government also highlighted that in the period 2006-2016, HSE issued 3,715 enforcement notices and conducted 296 prosecutions under Regulation 3 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations, which directly tackled those who had been discriminated against because of their pregnancy.
However, the Government admitted that more must be done and has issued documentation to provide advice to new or expecting mothers. This can be found here.
The report also argued that the right to paid time off for antenatal appointments should be extended to workers within the next year. The Government announced that it had swiftly addressed this issue by reviewing all employment practices in the modern economy. This review has been led by Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive of the Royal Society of Arts, and has promised that employment rights specific to pregnant women and new mothers are considered.
The final primary recommendation that the report highlighted was the necessity for additional protection for new and expectant mothers against redundancy. Research into this issue commissioned by EHRC concluded that 2% of all mothers were made redundant on their return from maternity leave, and 11% felt that were forced to leave their job.
The Government corroborated with the report in deeming this “unacceptable”. The Government also ensured to bring forward proposals to make sure that protections are put in place for those who are pregnant or returning from maternity leave.
Maria commented, “I am pleased that the Government has responded positively toward this report and is taking the necessary steps to safeguard pregnant women and new mothers, as well as combatting gender inequality more broadly.
"As a member of the Women and Equalities Select Committee, I played a part in crafting this report and am satisfied with the Government’s commitment to address all of the issues highlighted within it.”