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Annie Hayes

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Pregnancy discrimination is rife

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Around 30,000 working women are sacked, made redundant or leave their jobs due to pregnancy discrimination.

These are the shock findings released today by the Equal Opportunities Commission.

Under current laws discrimination on the basis of pregnancy is unlawful, but EOC figures show that of the 441,000 women who are pregnant at work each year almost half (45%) said they experienced some form of discrimination because of their pregnancy.

A fifth (21%) said they lost out financially due to discrimination. While one in 20 (5%) were put under pressure to hand in their notice when they announced their news.

Types of discrimination include:

  • Denial of promotion

  • Denial of bonuses and training opportunities

  • Changes in job descriptions

  • Being left out of decisions

  • Verbal abuse

By sector workers in retail experienced the highest levels of discrimination at 53% with manual workers also topping the charts at 50%.

Julie Mellor, Chair of the Equal Opportunities Commission was said to be ‘shocked’ by the findings and said that women should not be penalised for being pregnant:

“Although some employers knowingly flout the law, many businesses do face genuine challenges in managing pregnancy and simply don’t know what their responsibilities are or what help is available to them. We need urgent action from the Government to provide more information and support for pregnant employees and their employers.”

The EOC have launched the ‘Pregnant and Productive’ campaign which calls for two major changes to existing regulations:

  • Government to provide a written statement of maternity rights and employer responsibilities to every pregnant woman, with a tear-off section for her to give to her employer

  • Government to give employers a ‘right to request’ employees to indicate their planned return date much earlier during maternity leave where possible (new mothers are currently required to give 28 days’ notice of their return to work.)

Olympic athlete, Denise Lewis, who herself experienced problems with her coach when she announced she was pregnant with daughter Lauren is backing the campaign:

“I really believe that women should not suffer at work just for being pregnant. For me pregnancy was a short pit stop and I always believed that I would return to my career. Although some of the findings of this report are alarming, it’s great that the investigation has exposed the scale of the problem. I would urge everybody to get behind the ‘Pregnant & Productive’ campaign and pledge their support by visiting the website”.

See the website www.eoc.org.uk/pregnancy to pledge your support.

Does your business support pregnant women? Could more be done? Tell us your thoughts by posting your comments in the box below:

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Annie Hayes

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