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Valuing families, valuing maternity – our manifesto

Helen Beecher Bryant : March 12, 2015 11:55 am : News

Amid the biggest living standards crisis in a generation, pregnant women and new mothers have been hit especially hard. They and their families have borne the brunt of cuts to government services and social security benefits, including the closure of Sure Start centres, cuts to NHS maternity care funding, and below inflation uprating of Statutory Maternity Pay and Maternity Allowance – already well below the national minimum wage.

Working mothers have seen their real wages fall, while the cost of childcare has spiralled upwards. Unfair – and unlawful – treatment of pregnant women and new mothers at work has become more common than ever before. In sectors such as social care, catering, cleaning, and hospitality, hundreds of thousands of women are employed on contracts that offer little in the way of pay and job security, let alone basic maternity rights. Widespread job insecurity and falling real wages have also reduced the likelihood of shared parenting within families, entrenching outdated gender roles and blocking progress towards more equal labour force participation rates. This is bad for women, for business, and for the economy as a whole. In the run-up to the general election on 7 May, politicians of all parties will claim to value families, and their manifestos will each set out an offer intended to attract the ‘family’ vote. However, Maternity Action believes the next government must do more than value families – it must also value maternity.

Our manifesto sets out a series of policy actions for doing just that, under three headings: Maternity and Work; Maternity and Justice; and Maternity and Healthcare. In particular, we call on the next government to:

– Raise statutory maternity, paternity and parental pay to at least the minimum wage by 2020
– Abolish (or at least substantially lower) employment tribunal fees
– Adopt ‘flexible by default’ job design in the public sector
– Introduce a proper legal right to breastfeed in the workplace
– Close the ‘childcare gap’ between the end of maternity leave and the start of entitlement to free childcare
– Increase funding of midwifery and maternal mental health services

Read Maternity Action’s General Election manifesto ‘Valuing Families, Valuing Maternity’ here.

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Know your rights – get your rights!

Helen Beecher Bryant : 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

Helen Beecher Bryant : November 11, 2014 2:26 pm : News

Download PDF of this information page

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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Launch of Alliance Against Pregnancy Discrimination manifesto 2015

Helen Beecher Bryant : October 2, 2014 10:37 am : News

In December 2013, a Maternity Action report – Overdue: a plan of action to address pregnancy discrimination now – concluded that pregnancy and maternity discrimination is now more common in UK workplaces than ever before, with as many as 60,000 women forced out of their job each year.

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 new government elected in May 2015 needs to take robust action on this issue. The scale of the problem – and the detrimental impact on women, their families, and on gender equality – demands a collective response by ministers right across government.

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 UNISON and Unite, Working Families, and YESS – has drawn up a manifesto, setting out eight key policy actions for the government elected next year.

Take action in support of the AAPD manifesto for May 2015

National organisations can support the AAPD manifesto by joining the Alliance and participating in our lobbying activity. Please email

Individuals and local or regional organisation can support the AAPD manifesto by writing to each of the general election candidates in their parliamentary constituency, including the sitting MP if they are standing for re-election in May 2015, urging candidates to support the 8 policy actions set out in the AAPD manifesto.

You can find contact details for your local MP here. For other candidates, you can either wait until you receive an election leaflet or flyer (which will contain contact details for the candidate), or you can research the names and contact details of candidates by contacting each of the party head offices. Note that some parties may not yet have selected their candidate for your constituency.

Please enclose a printed copy of the AAPD manifesto with your letter (or, if emailing, attach the manifesto pdf to your email). Use the manifesto 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 60,000 women were forced out of work by pregnancy or maternity discrimination in 2014.
  • Economic ‘hard times’ are no excuse for employers to flout the law.

Thank you for your support.

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Recognising good employers

Helen Beecher Bryant : August 20, 2014 2:17 pm : News

Did you have a positive experience of pregnancy at work, maternity leave and return to work? We’d like to hear from you.

Maternity Action is working in partnership with Your Employment Settlement Service (YESS) collecting case studies of employers who did a good job of managing maternity at work.  We are working with the Equality and Human Rights Commission to recognise these employers so we can encourage more employers to get it right.

The sorts of things we are interested in are:

  • proper health and safety assessment and adjustments to working hours and conditions, if needed
  • reducing stress and physical demands of work during pregnancy
  • paying more than the statutory minimum in maternity pay. The statutory minimum is 90% of income for 6 weeks then 33 weeks at £137/week.
  • good use of Keeping In Touch days during maternity leave, such as helping you to keep up to date, access training or do some work
  • flexible working arrangements that work for you, such as part time hours, working from home, compressed hours
  • making it possible for you to continue breastfeeding on return to work, either with facilities in the workplace or through flexible working hours to enable you to be home when you need to breastfeed

We are interested in hearing about smaller employers as well as larger ones and about employers in Wales, Scotland and England.  Read more about the project here.

Please email us on or call Camilla Palmer on 020 3701 7531


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Showcasing employers solving the practical challenges of managing maternity

MaternityAction : August 20, 2014 9:23 am : News

Employers – have you managed a pregnant woman or new mother in recent years?  We would like to hear from you.

Maternity Action is working in partnership with Your Employment Settlement Service (YESS) to collect case studies of employers who have found solutions to some of the practical challenges of managing pregnant women and new mothers at work.  The case studies will be profiled in a campaign run by the Equality and Human Rights Commission in 2015.

We are looking for a mixture of small, medium and large employers, employers from different industries and those managing women in part time, full time and shift-worker roles across England, Scotland and Wales.

Many of the case studies we will be showcasing are common sense solutions to management challenges.  We know that a lot of employers are uncertain about how best to manage pregnant or new mothers, and we are hoping that these case studies will make it easier for them.

Download a summary here and find out more at

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Charging vulnerable migrant women for NHS care

MaternityAction : July 7, 2014 1:26 pm : News
Maternity Action has released a briefing and podcast on charging vulnerable migrant women for NHS maternity care and the impact of the Immigration Act 2014.
Aimed at midwives and others with an interest in improving health outcomes, the briefing outlines existing charging rules and examines the impact on health risks and the woman’s relationship of trust with her midwife.  The briefing considers arguments about cost savings to the NHS and explores how charging policies fit with strategies to reduce maternity health inequalities.
You can read and listen to them here
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Free training on maternity rights and benefits

MaternityAction : June 13, 2014 12:31 pm : News

Maternity Action has developed a series of webinar-based training courses on maternity rights and benefits for advice workers, midwives and other health workers.  We are offering free places while we pilot the training, and you can sign up here   

Places are limited.

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Podcast on access to primary care

MaternityAction : May 27, 2014 5:32 pm : News, Uncategorized
Maternity Action released a podcast about their new report, Women’s voices on health: addressing barriers to accessing primary care. You can listen to it here.
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Women need more flexibility in booking GP appointments

MaternityAction : May 27, 2014 4:50 pm : News

EMBARGOED UNTIL 00:01 28.05.2014


A report released today by Maternity Action and the Women’s Health and Equality Consortium found that women faced particular difficulties accessing GP services, impacting on their health and the health of their families.

“There is an urgent need for GP services to simplify registration procedures and offer more flexibility in booking appointments.

“Two in five of the women surveyed said it was hard to get an appointment with their GP.  They are left to choose between missing work without notice for a same day appointment or waiting several weeks to be seen,” said Maternity Action Director, Rosalind Bragg.

“Three-quarters of mothers report bringing children with them to their appointments as they were unable to arrange childcare at short notice.  This affects what they are able to discuss in their appointments and has resulted in serious breaches of confidentiality.

“More than three in five women prefer to see a female GP about sexual and reproductive health but one in five could not ask for a female GP at their surgery.

“Refugee and asylum seeking women reported particular difficulties obtaining appointments, requiring help from social workers or family members before they could arrange to see a doctor.




  1. 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.  Maternity Action provides free online information and telephone advice on maternity rights at work and maternity benefits which is available to all pregnant women, new mothers and their families.
  2. The report, Women’s voices on health: addressing barriers to accessing primary careis based on a detailed online survey of 300 women and five focus groups with, respectively, Black and Minority Ethnic women, refugee and asylum seeking women, women living with HIV, LGBT women and women with learning difficulties.
  3. The Women’s Health and Equality Consortium (WHEC) is a partnership of women’s charity organizations who share common goals of health and equality for girls and women.  WHEC aims to ensure that health policy reflects the real needs of girls and women.  It therefore pools the expertise of member organizations to better influence decision-makers and government.  WHEC works to improve the sustainability of the women’s and girls’ health and social care systems, and to strengthen women’s and girls’ capacity to engage with the health and social care systems.


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