Citizens Advice Records Increased Discrimination by Employers Against New Mothers

Across the UK, Citizens Advice has recorded a huge 60% rise in women asking for advice about maternity leave issues in 2016. In the year to June, just over 3,300 women approached the charity with issues, compared to 2,099 in the same period last year. Big issues reported included being made redundant, and employers switching new mothers to zero-hour contracts.

This sharp increase in reported issues comes after a recent story by the Guardian newspaper that after returning from maternity leave, women working for Sports Direct are being moved to zero-hour contacts; claims made in court documents relating to a breach-of-contract case.

According to Citizens Advice, the combined effect of the rise of zero-hour contracts, multiple part-time jobs and agency work is leading to employees becoming increasingly vulnerable to employers taking a hard-line in respect of maternity rights.

Rights for New Mothers in Employment UK

The law protects women from losing their jobs or having their hours reduced as a consequence of pregnancy, but one of the issues is that the responsibility for ensuring, and indeed, enforcing employment rights is distributed across a wide range of agencies, including Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC), and even the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority. The chief executive of Citizens Advice, Gillian Guy, said recently:

 “This confusing landscape means some bad bosses are getting away with treating their employees unfairly. There is an opportunity for the government to consider bringing together the expertise of all current labour market enforcement functions into one well-resourced, effective body to investigate bad practice.”

Citizens Advice statistics show that the most common issue dealt with in relation to maternity leave was redundancy, followed by reductions in the hours available to new mothers.

A new report released by Citizens Advice recently highlighted the shocking case of a woman called Nadia, who, following maternity leave from a local pub, where she was head chef, was subsequently offered work as a waitress on a zero-hour contract following issues during her pregnancy.

The report supports findings by the Equality and Human Rights Commission last year, that published a report into maternity discrimination. That study estimated around 54,000 new mothers lose their jobs across Britain each year; double the amount in similar research back in 2005.

The research by Citizens Advice clearly shows that maternity rights are increasingly being abused, as a result of an increasingly difficult economic climate in which employers are consistently taking a tougher stance in relation to employees’ rights at work and new mothers, the report seems to suggest, are bearing the brunt of this challenging environment, and in some cases, employers are not only taking a tougher stance, but breaking the law in the process of doing so.

There are now calls for this to be looked at more closely, to try to ensure that employment rights are always maintained, and that new mothers are treated fairly, and in accordance with the legislation designed to protect their rights in relation to maternity leave and motherhood.

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