Today, former Women and Equalities Minister Maria Miller presents her Pregnancy and Maternity (Redundancy) Bill to Parliament in a Ten Minute Rule Motion. The Bill seeks to stop employers from being able to make a woman redundant from the point that she notifies them that she is pregnant until six months after the end of her maternity leave, except in in specified circumstances; and for connected purposes.
Research by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission in 2016 showed that one in 20 women are made redundant while pregnant or on maternity leave, and that yearly 54,000 pregnant women feel they have no alternative but to leave their job when they are pregnant.
Mrs Miller’s Bill comes amid heightened concerns that the Coronavirus crisis may generate a new wave of pregnancy and maternity discrimination, including unfair redundancies of new and expectant mothers. Research from the universities of Cambridge, Oxford and Zurich has also found that women in the UK are four percentage points more likely to have lost their job than men in the wake of the pandemic, with 17% of women newly unemployed compared to 13% of men from mid-March to mid-April.
Maria Miller said, ‘Women are integral to the success of the UK economy, but research shows that women all too often experience unlawful discrimination after becoming pregnant. It’s vital that we retain female talent in the workforce by protecting them employers who flout the law.’
‘The protections my Bill propose aim to achieve equality for women in the workplace and would also help address the gender pay gap. The EHRC has shown that pregnancy and maternity-related discrimination results in job losses and a cost to women of between £47-£113 million a year. The costs to the taxpayer are also significant, as the Government forgo taxes and pay increased benefits to the tune of £14 million and £17 million. By retaining female talent in the workplace, productivity in the UK economy would increase. Businesses would also be saved the significant costs of recruiting new talent. Protecting women from unfair discrimination is not only an issue of equality; the economic argument for it is unmistakeable, too.’
This Bill has strong-cross party support, including notable Conservative women MPs such as Chair of the Women and Equalities Select Committee Caroline Nokes, Flick Drummond, Karen Bradley, Sally Ann Hart, Virginia Crosbie, and Nickie Aiken.
Director of Maternity Action Rosalind Bragg also welcomed the provisions of the Bill: ‘Maternity Action is really pleased that Maria Miller is presenting her Bill in parliament again. This Bill will give both employers and women clarity on their rights and obligations. Women are rightly worried that they are going to lose their jobs because they are pregnant, and few women have the financial resources to fight for justice at tribunal. The Bill would be a welcome measure to stop redundancy being used as a backdoor route for forcing pregnant women and new mothers out of their jobs.’