Pregnant women and new mothers are more likely to face negative treatment at work than they were a decade ago, according to research published by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). In response to the report, the Women and Equalities Committee opened an inquiry looking into the action being taken to address the problem. It focused particularly on whether the Government proposals to tackling pregnancy and maternity discrimination are sufficient, or whether tougher action is required to ensure that pregnant women and mothers are treated fairly.

In its report, the EHRC recommended six areas of action for tackling the issue: leadership for change; improving employer practice; improving access to information and advice; improving health and safety management in the workplace; improving access to justice and monitoring progress.

The inquiry invited submissions from employers, policy organisations and individual women, focusing on solutions. It placed a particular emphasis on the following areas:

  • The likely effectiveness of the Government’s proposals for action
  • How the Government can work with employers to drive behaviour change and improve outcomes for women
  • Whether particular groups or types of employers need more support to achieve this
  • How to help women and their employers find the information they need
  • Reasons for the reported rise in discrimination in the past decade
  • The extent to which changes in the labour market in the past decade have affected levels of discrimination
  • What improvements could be brought about by better inter-departmental working in the Government
  • Whether some areas of existing legislation could be implemented more effectively
  • Effectiveness of tribunals as a deterrent, and whether this has been affected by the introduction of fees in 2013
  • Health and safety
  • Whether increased financial support for small business would help to reduce discrimination
  • What can be learned from best practice in the UK and elsewhere

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