'Employers Must Not Be Allowed To Sack Women Just Because They Are Pregnant'

Labour MPs back legislation to protect new mothers at work.
Dan Jarvis and Tulip Siddiq
Dan Jarvis and Tulip Siddiq

Finding out you’re pregnant, becoming a mother, having a baby, or adopting a child is supposed to be one of the happiest times in your life.

But for many new parents, the newborn baby bubble is burst by the news they are being laid off.

While colleagues have sent soon-to-be-mums off on maternity leave with flowers, some employers have a redundancy notice waiting for their return.

No one should be penalised for having children, but too often women are.

In 2016, a BEIS-commissioned, Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) survey found that three in four women experienced pregnancy and maternity discrimination.

While some 54,000 women a year lose their job simply because they are pregnant. It’s a complete scandal – one the Tories have long been aware of.

We are now six years on from the EHRC’s shocking findings and to date, no action has been taken to tackle the industrial scale discrimination women face.

The government have consistently said they will address this issue, with promises to extend redundancy protections to the period of pregnancy and following their return to work. But it’s never come to pass.

Most recently was October 2019, where the Queen’s Speech pledged to deliver these commitments through an Employment Bill.

A bill that as quickly as it was announced, was jettisoned without trace, never to materialise again. And then, the pandemic hit.

A crisis that amplified and exacerbated every pre-existing inequality and pushed even more women out of work.

Discrimination was rife pre-pandemic, but mothers were one-and-a-half times more likely than fathers to have lost their job since the lockdown began and women dominate industries that are slower to recover.

Today, people are facing a cost-of-living crisis of epic proportions. Wages are shrinking and millions of people are falling into poverty.

A scarcity of affordable housing, extortionate childcare costs, and soaring inflation means raising a family has never been harder and the decision to start or grow a family is becoming increasingly unaffordable.

What new parents need at the very least is job security, yet they continue to be the first to be pushed out the door by employers.

There is no more time to waste. That’s why this week we’re supporting a new bill in parliament to extend redundancy protections for expectant mums and new parents.

It will include parents taking adoption or shared parental leave and stop them being the first to be laid off on their return to work.

It’s a long over-due step towards guaranteeing families more dignity in the workplace.

A Labour government would build on this commitment. Our New Deal for Working People would make it unlawful to dismiss a woman who is pregnant, including six months after her return.

But for now, we must do what we can to protect those most vulnerable to redundancy.

Indeed, there is no more important job in the world than raising a family, children are our future. It seems only right you should not lose your career for doing so.

::Dan Jarvis is the MP for Barnsley Central and Tulip Siddiq is the MP for Hampstead and Kilburn.


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