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Julie Dennis: Pregnancy and maternity discrimination: employers need to create inclusive workplaces

Thursday 23 November 2017

Julie Dennis, Acas Head of Diversity and Inclusion discusses pregnancy and maternity discrimination.

Julie Dennis Julie Dennis

Julie is Head of Diversity and Inclusion at Acas and has over 16 years' experience in delivering strategic diversity and inclusion solutions. Previously, she was Head of Diversity at the Land Registry.

 

Becoming a mother is one of my greatest achievements. Even though it was many years ago, I was lucky to have a good employer who didn't treat me any differently when I informed them I was pregnant. It was a small family run business who put in place all the necessary measures to ensure my unborn child and I were safe at work, including making a few workplace adjustments. Overall I would class them as a good employer.

Unfortunately, not every mother-to-be can share the same story. Research undertaken by BEIS and the EHRC found that around one in nine mothers (11%) reported that they were either dismissed, made compulsorily redundant, or treated so poorly, they felt they had to leave their job.

The Equality Act 2010 protects employees from discrimination and victimisation because of pregnancy and maternity, one of nine features known in law as protected characteristics and covered by the Act.

The same research also found that one in five mothers said they had experienced harassment or negative comments related to pregnancy or flexible working from their employer and /or colleagues. And 10% of mothers said their employer discouraged them from attending antenatal appointments.

This week Acas has published new guidance on tackling Pregnancy and Maternity Discrimination at Work to help employers ensure they do not get it wrong when an employee informs them about their pregnancy. It also sets out guidance for pregnant women and new mothers to ensure they don't fall victim of discrimination and if they do, what steps they can take. The guidance offers a wealth of best practice. Our hope is that it will enable employers to create supportive workplaces for women during pregnancy and maternity leave.

I would encourage all employers to read our guidance to ensure they can create inclusive workplaces where pregnant employees or women on maternity leave feel part of the organisation. This will result in more women returning to work after maternity leave because they are able to balance a career with raising a family which helps employers retain talent.

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