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A Plan of Action to tackle pregnancy discrimination at work

MaternityAction : September 15, 2015 2:44 pm : News

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The Alliance Against Pregnancy Discrimination has today (16 September) issued a Plan of Action to tackle pregnancy & maternity discrimination now.

New research by the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills and the Equality & Human Rights Commission, published in July, indicates that pregnancy and maternity discrimination is now more common in UK workplaces than ever before, with as many as 54,000 pregnant women and new mothers forced out of their job each year. This is almost twice the figure of 30,000 suggested by similar research undertaken in 2004-5 by the then Equal Opportunities Commission, and very close to our estimate of “up to 60,000” in our 2013 report, Overdue.

The new research confirms what Maternity Action has been saying for many years: that pregnancy and maternity discrimination is both widespread and deeply entrenched, with a significant minority of employers holding outdated and wholly inappropriate attitudes. This is bad for women and their families, bad for gender equality, and bad for the economy.

It is also harder than ever to challenge such discrimination: the supply of free legal advice has been severely reduced by funding cuts and the abolition of almost all civil legal aid. And, since July 2013, upfront fees of up to £1,200 to pursue an employment tribunal claim for pregnancy, maternity or sex discrimination have had a devastating impact on women’s access to justice.

The scale of the problem – and the detrimental impact on women, their families, and on gender equality – demands a robust and effective response by ministers. To this end, the Alliance Against Pregnancy Discrimination – the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, the Family and Childcare Trust, the Fawcett Society, Maternity Action, NCT, the Royal College of Midwives, the TUC, the unions Prospect, UNISON and Unite, Working Families, and YESS – has drawn up a Plan of Action, setting out eight key policy actions for ministers across government.

Take action in support of the AAPD Plan of Action

National organisations can support the AAPD Plan of Action by joining the Alliance and participating in our lobbying activity. Please contact:

Individuals and local or regional organisations can support the AAPD Plan of Action by writing to their MP, urging them to consider supporting the 8 policy actions. You can find contact details for your local MP by clicking here.

Please enclose a printed copy of the AAPD Plan of Action with your letter (or, if emailing, attach the Plan of Action pdf to your email). Use the Plan of Action to draft your covering letter (or email), and include the following points:

    • Pregnancy and maternity discrimination is now more common in UK workplaces than ever before.
    • As many as 54,000 women are forced out of work by pregnancy or maternity discrimination each year.
    • There can be no excuse for employers to break the law.

Thank you for your support.

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Reforming support for failed asylum seekers and other illegal migrants

Roz Hampson : September 8, 2015 6:07 pm : News

Maternity Action has responded to the Home Office’s consultation on reforming support for failed asylum seekers and other illegal immigrants. Download the full response below.

                                                                                                                                   Download PDF of this information page

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Briefing: Provision of maternity services for undocumented migrants in the UK and six European countries

MaternityAction : August 11, 2015 10:35 am : News

This briefing reviews the rules governing access to maternity care for undocumented migrants in the UK and in six European countries. This has been prepared in the context of UK Government proposals to change eligibility rules and charging arrangements for migrants and other overseas visitors. Download PDF of this information page

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Media release: Urgent action needed on pregnancy discrimination at work

MaternityAction : July 24, 2015 12:01 am : News

EMBARGOED 00:01 24.07.2015

Responding to today’s publication by the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills and the Equality & Human Rights Commission of the first findings of their joint, £1 million research study into pregnancy and maternity discrimination at work, Rosalind Bragg, Director of Maternity Action, said:

“When David Cameron came to power, he committed to making Britain the most family friendly country in Europe.  Instead, the position of mothers in the workplace has deteriorated significantly.

“This research paints a shocking picture of the experiences of pregnant women and new mothers in the workplace.

“It is unacceptable that 54 000 women each year are dismissed or bullied out of their jobs purely because they became pregnant.  This is almost twice the number identified in 2005 research into pregnancy discrimination.

“Action to protect women’s rights to work during their childbearing years is long overdue.  The Government needs to move beyond family friendly rhetoric to delivering practical solutions to this widespread and growing problem.

“Funding is urgently needed for specialist advice and support for women to pursue unfair and unlawful treatment by their employer.  Employment tribunal fees which deny access to justice to the vast majority of women should be scrapped.  Government should put in place an information strategy to ensure that both women and their employers know their rights and obligations.

“It is appalling that one in ten women are discouraged from attending antenatal appointments by their employers.  This puts the health of mother and baby at risk.


For more information call 07913 381 208.


Maternity Action campaigns to challenge inequality and protect the health and wellbeing of pregnant women, new mothers and their families.

Maternity Action provides online information and telephone advice on maternity rights at work and maternity benefits.  We answer 2500 advice calls each year and parents view our information sheets over 57 000 times each month.

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Have you been badly treated at work due to your pregnancy or taking maternity leave?

MaternityAction : June 4, 2015 2:37 pm : News

Too many women lose out at work when they become pregnant, or take maternity leave. Maternity Action estimates that as many as 60,000 women are forced out of their job each year after becoming pregnant, including by being unfairly selected for redundancy, and that another 200,000 are subjected to unfair treatment as a result of their pregnancy or taking maternity leave.

Here at Maternity Action, we are working hard to end such unlawful pregnancy and maternity discrimination. Standing up to such unfair treatment by an employer has always been a daunting challenge for pregnant women and new mothers, but the introduction of prohibitively high tribunal fees in July 2013 has only served to further deter women with valid claims from taking legal action. Together with deep cuts to legal advice services, the fees amount to a charter for rogue and dinosaur employers.

Over the next few months, we anticipate a number of opportunities to shine a spotlight on women’s experiences, raise public awareness, and campaign for changes in the law – including reform of the tribunal fees introduced in 2013.

We are currently looking for women willing to act as ‘real life’ case studies, and to talk to the press and media about their own experience. Press, TV and radio journalists almost always want to illustrate their article with a personal case study, as this adds greatly to the power of the story.

If you have experienced unfair treatment at work on account of your pregnancy or maternity leave in the recent past, and are willing and able to support our campaigning by talking publicly about your case, we would love to hear from you. Please contact:

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Maternity Action calls on the Government to revise the outdated EU Maternity Leave Directive

MaternityAction : May 15, 2015 3:04 pm : News

Maternity Action is calling on the Government to revise the EU Maternity Leave Directive, which has remained unchanged since 1992, and to support a new proposal to better protect the health and wellbeing of pregnant women and new mothers, as well as ensure their equal participation in the labour market across Europe.

Last summer, the European Commission announced that it was going to withdraw the reviewed proposal if there was no advancement in EU council negotiations by June 2015. We are calling on the UK Government, to resume negotiations on a compromise text establishing a Working Group of the Trio Presidency (Italy-Latvia-Luxembourg).

The labour market has changed considerably since 1992, therefore there is a need for an urgent re-examination of the issues and implications of the outdated Maternity Leave Directive.

Maternity Action is calling on Ministers to support a new proposal, based on providing mothers with the right to 18 statutory weeks of maternity leave (as proposed by the European Commission), of which 6 would be fully paid and compulsory. The remaining 12 weeks could be covered for at least 85% of the wage previously earned (as this is the case in many Member states).

Currently, just 63% of women in the EU are working and the Europe 2020 strategy target employment rate is 75%. Revising the EU Maternity Leave Directive is crucial to achieving this target and ensuring the health and safety of mothers.

Austerity measures have been given as a reason for the lack of discussion on the directive, yet enabling a revised Directive would help to eliminate gender equalities in the labour market and help to change the way in which mothers are treated in the workplace.

Notes to editors

Maternity Action is the UK’s leading charity committed to ending inequality and improving the health and well-being of pregnant women, partners and young children – from conception through to the child’s early years.

For further information, please contact Helen Beecher Bryant, on 020 7253 2288, 07913 381208 or

Maternity Action’s #GE2015 manifesto

Overdue: a plan of action to tackle pregnancy discrimination now

Impact report:

Valuing families?

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General Election 2015: the manifestos are out

MaternityAction : April 21, 2015 3:08 pm : News

Last week, the General Election campaign entered its final phase, with all three main political parties publishing their election manifestos. And we’ve been measuring them up against our own policy manifesto, Valuing families, valuing maternity.

First out of the blocks, on Monday, was Labour, with an 85-page document entitled Britain can be better. This sets out several policy pledges on issues highlighted in our manifesto.

There is welcome recognition that the employment tribunal fees of up to £1,200 introduced by the Coalition in July 2013 have created “a significant barrier to workplace justice”. A Labour government would “abolish the employment tribunal fee system as part of wider reforms to make sure that affordability is not a barrier to workers having proper access to justice, employers get a quicker resolution, and the costs to the tax payer do not rise”. And, in its separate Manifesto for Work, issued two weeks earlier, Labour adds: “We will ask Acas to oversee a process led by the CBI and the TUC to agree reforms to the system”. However, this fails to spell out whether Labour would abolish fees outright, or introduce an alternative fees system. And it raises questions about how long the Acas-led reform process would take, and whether the current fees would remain in place in the meantime.

There is disappointingly no mention of the ‘childcare gap’ between the end of paid maternity leave (or shared parental leave) and the start of entitlement to free childcare. But the manifesto does pledge an expansion of “free childcare from 15 to 25 hours per week for working parents of three and four-year-olds, paid for with an increase in the bank levy” and “a legal guarantee for parents of primary school children to access wraparound childcare from 8am to 6pm through their local primary school”. The manifesto adds that “this will be underpinned by a new National Primary Childcare Service, a not-for-profit organisation to promote the voluntary and charitable delivery of quality extracurricular activities”.

On midwifery and maternal mental health services, the manifesto commits Labour to “invest in 20,000 more nurses, 8,000 more GPs, and 3,000 more midwives”. And, in a blogpost published a few days before the manifesto, Labour pledges “guaranteed personalised one-to-one care from a midwife” and explains that “this guarantee will be made possible by our commitment to recruit 3,000 more midwives by 2020 – through our £2.5bn Time to Care Fund, funded through a mansion tax on properties over £2m, tackling tax avoidance and a new levy on tobacco firms”. While some have noted that “the full benefits of personalised care will not be achieved by this election pledge”, it certainly amounts to a very significant investment in midwifery services, and as such is very welcome. The full manifesto also pledges that “mental health will be given the same priority as physical health, with a new right to access talking therapies”.

The manifesto re-iterates Labour’s previously announced pledge to “double the current two weeks of paternity leave to four weeks, and increase the amount of paternity pay from £140 to more than £260 a week”. And, noting that “many grandparents want to be more involved in caring for their grandchildren”, there is a commitment to “support them in doing so”. This was amplified two days later, with a separate Manifesto for Women stating that a Labour government would “consult on allowing grandparents … to share in parents’ unpaid parental leave, enabling them to take time off work without fear of losing their job”.

Last but by no means least, the manifesto states that a Labour government would “end the indefinite detention of people in the asylum and immigration system, ending detention for pregnant women and those who have been the victims of sexual abuse or trafficking”.

On Tuesday, it was the turn of the Conservatives, with an 84-page document entitled, Strong leadership; a clear economic plan; a brighter, more secure future. On childcare, this matches Labour’s core offer by pledging to “give families where all parents are working an entitlement to 30 hours of free childcare for their three and four year-olds”, and commits a Conservative government to implementing the Coalition’s tax-free childcare scheme.

While there is no specific pledge to invest in midwifery or maternal mental health services, the manifesto states: “We have legislated to ensure that mental and physical health conditions are given equal priority. We will now go further, ensuring that there are therapists in every part of the country providing treatment for those who need it. We are increasing funding for mental health care … [and] we will ensure that women have access to mental health support during and after pregnancy, while strengthening the health visiting programme for new mothers”.

Come Wednesday, the Liberal Democrats joined the fray with a whopping, 160-page tome entitled, Stronger economy; fairer society; opportunity for everyone. On childcare, the manifesto sets out a bold (and very welcome) ambition to “extend free childcare to all two-year-olds” and “the children of all working parents from the end of paid parental leave (nine months) to two years”. However, it’s not entirely clear when this ambition might be achieved, or how it would be funded.

There are also welcome pledges to “expand Shared Parental Leave with a ‘use it or lose it’ month for fathers, and introduce a right to paid leave for carers”. But there’s no suggestion that this extra parental leave for fathers would be paid at more than the current £138.00 per week, equivalent to just 60 per cent of the minimum wage. On the plus side, the manifesto states: “While changes to parental leave should be introduced slowly to give business time to adjust, our ambition is to see Paternity and Shared Parental Leave become a ‘day one’ right”.

On employment tribunal (ET) fees, there’s a somewhat vague pledge to “improve the enforcement of employment rights, reviewing ET fees to ensure they are not a barrier”. However, earlier this month, the Coalition’s employment relations minister and now Liberal Democrat candidate Jo Swinson wrote that “there is a real concern that bonafide claims are being unheard due to workers being unable to afford fees, [so] we would review the level of tribunal fees to ensure that they do not prohibit people from making bona fide claims. A nominal fee could be appropriate to not unduly deter sound claims.”

Somewhat disappointingly, the three parties between them manage just one single mention of breastfeeding in their combined 330-pages of manifesto pledges, with the Liberal Democrats saying they would “review the support and advice available for parents on early child nutrition and breastfeeding”. And no manifesto mentions the particular childcare challenge faced by single parents and parents of disabled children.

There is also surprisingly little mention of flexible working, with the phrase again appearing only once, in the Liberal Democrats’ manifesto (and even that is just a reference to the Coalition’s extension of the right to request flexible working, in 2014). None of the three parties pledges extra funding for the specialist information and advice services women need to help protect their rights, and only one (again, the Liberal Democrats) mentions welfare support for asylum seekers. And no party has taken up our call for maternity care to be exempted from the NHS charging regime.

On the plus side, both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats pledge to exempt statutory maternity, paternity and parental pay (and, presumably, maternity allowance) from a continuing one per cent cap on the annual uprating of welfare benefits. We would much prefer to see that cap scrapped entirely, of course.

Overall, then, some welcome manifesto pledges from each of the three main parties, but a lot of campaigning work yet to be done to ensure that the next government values families and maternity.

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Alliance Against Pregnancy Discrimination – 2015 Election Manifesto

MaternityAction : March 12, 2015 11:55 am : News

Download PDF of this information pageSix years on from the global financial crisis of 2008 and the onset of economic recession, pregnancy and maternity discrimination is now more common in UK workplaces than ever before: as many as 60,000 pregnant women and new mothers were forced out of their job in 2014.

[To download the AAPD manifesto, click on the icon right]

It is also harder than ever to challenge such discrimination: the supply of free legal advice has been decimated by funding cuts and the abolition of almost all civil legal aid. And, since July 2013, upfront fees of up to £1,200 to pursue an employment tribunal claim for pregnancy, maternity or sex discrimination have had a devastating impact on women’s access to justice.

With pregnant women, new mothers and their families also facing the biggest living standards crisis in a generation, the Alliance Against Pregnancy Discrimination believes the government elected in May 2015 must take urgent and robust action to tackle the proliferation of pregnancy and maternity discrimination in the workplace. The scale of the problem – and the detrimental impact on women, their families, and on gender equality – demands a collective response by ministers across government.

In this Manifesto, we set out eight key policy actions for the government elected in May 2015, to ensure job security for all working women during their pregnancy and maternity leave.

  • Senior ministers across government should send a strong message to employers that economic ‘hard times’ are no excuse to flout the law on pregnancy and maternity discrimination. This ministerial lead should be supplemented by a high-profile government information campaign aimed at improving the awareness of both workers and employers of the law and best practice.
  • The new Minister for Women & Equalities should, in collaboration with relevant stakeholders such as the members of this Alliance, lead on drawing up a cross-departmental plan for rapidly implementing the recommendations from the Equality & Human Rights Commission’s current inquiry into pregnancy discrimination – due to report in mid-2015 – which have consensus support.
  • The Ministry of Justice should abolish the hefty, upfront fees for discrimination and other employment tribunal claims introduced in July 2013. There is now broad consensus that the Ministry got it badly wrong on fees, which in the words of the CBI “should never be a barrier to justice”. With the overall number of employment tribunal cases down by 65%, and sex and pregnancy discrimination claims down by 84% and 38% respectively, it is now clear that the fees regime is little more than a charter for rogue employers.
  • The Department for Business, Innovation & Skills and the Ministry of Justice should, in collaboration with relevant stakeholders, identify and implement further measures to improve compliance with employment tribunal awards, to ensure that women awarded financial compensation for pregnancy or maternity discrimination by a tribunal actually receive the money due to them. It is simply unacceptable that 50% of all awards go unpaid by the employer.
  • The Ministry of Justice should work to deliver a significant injection of funding into the specialist information and advice services that pregnant women and new mothers need to help protect their rights and entitlements.
  • To ensure that all new parents receive the minimum income for healthy living (as recommended by the Marmot Review), encourage more shared parenting, and so reduce the scope for discrimination, the Department for Work & Pensions should immediately restore the real value of statutory maternity, paternity, adoption and shared parental leave pay, and of maternity allowance, lost as a result of below-inflation annual uprating since April 2013. It should then plan a series of annual increases to bring parity with the National Minimum Wage by 2020, and with the Living Wage in the longer term. It is simply unfair to expect new parents to get by on just 60% of the National Minimum Wage at a time when their outgoings have grown enormously. And, in the words of one small employer, it is “immoral and damaging to society to force new mothers back into work before they [are] ready”.
  • To incentivise small employers to ‘do the right thing’ by pregnant women, and to assist with the associated costs (including accrual of holiday pay during maternity leave), the Department for Work & Pensions and HM Treasury should raise the rate at which small businesses can recover statutory maternity, paternity, adoption and shared parental leave pay, from the current 103% to 110%, and should act to raise awareness among small employers of the provisions for advance funding by HMRC.
  • The Department for Business, Innovation & Skills should use the first available legislative opportunity to create a statutory right to time-off and facilities for breastfeeding at work, and clear legal protection against harassment or discrimination for exercising this right.

The Alliance Against Pregnancy Discrimination is convened by Maternity Action.

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Know your rights – get your rights!

MaternityAction : January 14, 2015 8:13 pm : News

Too many people don’t know their rights at work. And, pregnancy and childbirth not being everyday events, awareness and understanding of the associated workplace rights and benefits is even poorer. Worse still, there are limited sources of guidance for pregnant women and new parents.

Maternity Action produces over 50 information sheets on maternity rights at work, maternity benefits, and breastfeeding rights, which are downloaded more than 10,000 times every month. And our telephone advice line logs some 2,500 calls every year. But that is 20 times more calls than we are able to answer with current resources. Clearly, the demand for information and advice greatly exceeds the supply.

Over the next few weeks, therefore, we are going to be using social media to highlight five key maternity-related rights that are especially overlooked or poorly understood, not least by employers. Accessing one or more of these rights can make an enormous difference to the experience of women and their families, but they may not be among the first rights that spring to mind.

Not everyone knows, for example, that all pregnant employees – including part-timers – are entitled to paid time off for antenatal care. They cannot be asked to make up the hours, and cannot be asked to use annual leave or flexi-time. And ‘antenatal care’ isn’t just medical appointments such as scans – it can also include antenatal or parenting classes if recommended by a doctor or midwife. What’s more, the father or pregnant woman’s partner also has a right to unpaid time off work to go to two antenatal appointments.

Calls to our advice line also suggest that it is not widely known that it is against the law to make a woman redundant simply because of her pregnancy. In fact, being selected for redundancy because you are pregnant or have taken maternity leave is unlawful discrimination.

Few women – and even fewer employers – seem to know that you do not have to repay any Statutory Maternity Pay, even if you resign during your maternity leave. This includes both the higher rate for the six weeks after the birth, and the flat rate for up to 33 weeks. And employers claim the SMP back from the Government, so they are not left out of pocket.

Similarly, the fact that women from abroad can claim SMP or Maternity Allowance (subject to meeting the qualifying conditions) is not well-known, leading to many such women assuming – or being wrongly told – that they have no entitlement. It does not matter if you have ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ stamped in your passport, as SMP and MA are not ‘public funds’.

And last – but by no means least – we never fail to be surprised how few women know that breastfeeding in the workplace is protected by law. It’s true that there is no explicit legal right to breastfeeding breaks and facilities upon return to work – we’d very much like to see one introduced! However, employers must meet their obligations to a breastfeeding employee under health and safety, flexible working, and anti-discrimination law. And, not only is it simple and inexpensive for employers to do so, but it brings real business benefits such as increased productivity and staff loyalty.

So, know your rights, get your rights!

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Valuing families? The impact of cuts to maternity benefits since 2010

MaternityAction : November 11, 2014 2:26 pm : News

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Since 2010, the Government has made a series of cuts to benefits and statutory payments targeted at or available to pregnant women and parents of children aged up to 12 months, including freezing and means-testing Child Benefit, abolishing the Health in Pregnancy Grant, and capping the annual up-rating of Statutory Maternity (and Paternity) Pay and Maternity Allowance.

By 2014, these cuts added up to £1.5 billion per year.

Pregnant women and new parents are already facing a difficult environment. The cost of living has increased significantly since the economic downturn began, and wage increases have not kept pace. Pregnancy discrimination in the workplace is forcing as many as 60,000 women out of work each year, and tribunal fees of up to £1,200 have severely restricted access to justice. More than 600 Sure Start centres have closed since 2010, and maternity services are under increasing pressure as staffing fails to keep pace with the increasing birth rate and growing number of complex pregnancies.

This report concludes that these cuts are exacerbating the high rate of poverty among new families, including those in the workforce, and are contributing to the growth in personal debt. Financial pressures are forcing some women to return to work from maternity leave earlier than they would like. And take-up of leave by fathers and partners is affected by family incomes, further reducing the likelihood of shared parenting. This entrenches the division of caring responsibilities and halts progress in reducing the gender pay gap.

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