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Maternity Discrimination

Volume 608: debated on Thursday 14 April 2016

I want to start by thanking the Equality and Human Rights Commission for the research it has led and for its report. The Government have accepted the great majority of its recommendations and will work with it, ACAS and employers to root out discrimination against pregnant women in the workplace.

I welcome the Minister’s answer. I am aware of a number of cases of new mothers in my constituency who have lost their jobs after giving birth or experienced some other form of discrimination at work. Will he set out a timescale for implementation of the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s recommendations, and will he create an opportunity, through the usual channels, for a debate in the House on that work?

I am very happy to take up with the Leader of the House the possibility of having such a debate, because I would welcome it. The report made for depressing reading in some respects. Although it is welcome that 84% of employers think that it is important to support pregnant women and new mothers, it is frankly depressing that three in four mothers interviewed said that they had had a negative or possibly discriminatory experience during their pregnancy. We need to achieve a wholesale change in culture. I will resist putting a timeframe on implementation of that change in culture, because ultimately that is something that Governments on their own cannot do. However, a debate on how we can all work together to achieve that would be very welcome.

Many women still face difficult decisions when it comes to having a baby, particularly women in high-powered careers in places such as London, where house prices are extremely high and working part time simply is not an option. What are the Government doing to encourage businesses to adopt a modern approach, allowing women the prospect of a balanced work and family life and flexible working hours, where possible?

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right, but I know that he will welcome the introduction of the right to request flexible working and all the Government’s interventions to provide further childcare support for working women of all ages and all income levels. I believe that that will help women who want to be able to balance engagement in the workplace with bringing up young children.