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Maternity Protection (Ilo Convention)

Volume 639: debated on Wednesday 3 May 1961

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asked the Minister of Labour when it is his intention to ratify Convention No. 103 of the International Labour Organisation concerning maternity protection.

The position remains as stated in Cmd. 9082 presented to the House in March, 1954, and the Government do not propose to ratify this Convention.

I agree that, fundamentally, these matters are better settled between employer and employee, on a voluntary basis, but what does my right hon. Friend suggest can be done when the employer and the employed fail, perhaps, to carry out what are, I think, the accepted arrangements when there are maternity cases involved in employment? In view of his hon. Friend's agreement in answer to another question to look at any problems where people are not getting on very well in industry, will he consider cases of this kind?

I agree that this is primarily a matter best settled between the employer and worker. My hon. Friend will appreciate that this Convention does not guarantee an expectant woman against dismissal. It is a very difficult problem which in the ordinary way can be settled properly only by good sense in the relationship between employer and employee.

As there are employers, including, unfortunately, the Press Association, who are still following the barbaric practice of dismissing married women employees who have been with them for 15 years simply because they have become pregnant, does not the Minister think that the time has come for us to follow the example of France and to give protection to the right of reinstatement of married women by law as is done in that country?

I think that that would be very difficult. I understand the hon. Lady's feeling about this, but, once we start legislating, we are in danger of prejudicing the position of married women and of putting them under restraints which would make life more difficult for them than it is at the moment.