The Government has given provisional backing to a new Private Members Bill which intends to extend the period in which pregnant women and workers returning from parental leave are protected from redundancy.
Labour MP for Barnsley Central, Dan Jarvis, was recently drawn in second place in the House of Commons ballot for Private Members Bill, and today announced his choice as the Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Bill. Though Private Members Bills rarely become law, it has been reported that Jarvis’ Bill has cross party support as well as tentative backing from Ministers, which makes the Bill more likely to have a chance of becoming law.
As the law stands, employers cannot make mothers redundant whilst they are on maternity leave. But under Jarvis’ Bill, protection against redundancy would be extended to apply throughout pregnancy and six months after mothers return to work.
Jarvis also wants to extend the protections to parents on shared parental leave and those on adoption leave.
A Government source told i News that Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng supports the Bill in principle, following meetings between his department and Mr Jarvis.
Jarvis said that his Bill would be “a step towards providing working families with security and dignity in the workplace.”
“No one should be penalised for having a family, but pregnant women and new mums face grotesque levels of discrimination in the workplace.”
“This Bill will help tackle the appalling injustices they face. From the extortionate cost of childcare to difficulty in finding flexible hours, balancing family life with a job is already hard enough.”
Sacked and silenced
A study, conducted by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in 2019, found that one in nine women have been fired or made redundant, or were treated so badly they felt forced out of their job, after going back to work from maternity leave.
The report estimated over 50,000 women each year may lose their role at work because of pregnancy or maternity.
It also found that over 75% of pregnant women and new mothers in the workforce experience some form of discrimination or negative treatment during pregnancy, maternity leave and return to work from leave. This is up from 45% of women in 2005.
Additionally, only around a quarter (28%) of those women raised the issue with their employer, only 3% went through their employer’s internal grievance procedure, and less than 1% pursued a claim to the employment tribunal.
The less than 1% of women who do go-ahead to an employment tribunal are often ‘sacked and silenced’.
Pregnant women singled out for redundancy
Since the COVID-19 crisis began, a quarter of pregnant women or new mothers allegedly experienced unfair treatment at work, including being singled out for redundancy or furlough, according to a study of 3,400 women by the TUC.
Right To Life UK spokesperson Catherine Robinson said: “Negative workplace attitudes towards pregnancy and motherhood could cause women to feel pressure to have an abortion. No woman should have to face such pressure.”
“This is a positive piece of legislation that would help reduce pressure on working women to have abortions.”