Maternity rights must be defended says Ruth

Ruth Cadbury MP today took part in a Westminster Hall debate on the subject of maternity discrimination, after the publication of the Equality and Human Rights Committee/Department for Business, Innovation and Schools’ 2016 report on the issue.

In her role as part of the Women and Equalities Select Committee, Ruth has done a great deal of work on the subject and the Committee are in the process of publishing an inquiry into their findings. The issue of maternity discrimination affects all businesses; with over 75% women reporting negative/discriminatory treatment in every level of business. The number of women experiencing maternity discrimination is only rising, with 22% more women reporting negative experiences at work since the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s 2005 report. The Commission found that three out of four mothers (77%) had a negative/possibly discriminatory experience during pregnancy, maternity leave and after maternity leave. Scaled up this could affect as many as 390,000 mothers a year.

Ruth Cadbury MP said: ‘With more and more women entering the workplace, it is imperative that maternity discrimination is not allowed to negatively affect the experience of women at work. Employers should offer all jobs flexibly unless there is a reasonable justification not to. At present, employees have to wait six months before they can make a request to work flexibly.

However, over half of mothers (51%) reported negative treatment such as having job responsibilities removed as a direct consequence of having a flexible working request approved. Women in areas as diverse as arts and leisure, manufacturing and agriculture reported the highest rates of negative experience. To make flexible working a norm for all genders is to normalise it as a practise as well as normalising the notion of men in a caring role. There is currently a gap of 38.2% in median hourly earning when comparing part-time women with full-time men. To offer more senior jobs as flexible or part time roles would go a long way to stop the opportunity gap between both men and women as well as those who have children and those who do not.

There is a raft of legislation in place to protect the rights of pregnant women and mothers in the workplace, including the four core legal rights. However, it is clear that these rights are not being adhered to by many employers. It is our duty to ensure that these rights are being safeguarded and that the recommendations of the EHRC report are upheld. Whilst the Government accepted the majority of the report’s recommendations, they did not go far enough. To ensure the safeguarding of rights and the decline of experiences of maternity discrimination, all six recommendations of the 2016 ECHR report must be implemented.’