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Maternity Discrimination

Volume 643: debated on Thursday 28 June 2018

It is unlawful to discriminate against women in the workplace because they are pregnant or new mothers. We are implementing the commitment set out in our response last year to the Women and Equalities Committee report on pregnancy discrimination. In our response to the Taylor review, we have committed to considering whether the legislation protecting pregnant women and new mothers from redundancy is adequate. That review is under way and we plan to publish a consultation in the summer.

Susan Wojcicki is the chief executive officer of YouTube and she has been quite outspoken on this issue. She says that mothers given paid maternity leave, for example, come back to work with new skills and insights that help a company’s bottom line. Does the Minister agree that supporting mothers in the workplace not only is the right thing to do, but can help and be good for business, too?

Very much so. We have the highest rate of female employment on record. We know that we have more women returning to work after they have had caring responsibilities. The message to business is very clear: women are good for business. Organisations with the highest level of gender diversity in their leadership teams are 15% more likely to outperform their industry rivals.

How women are treated when they become pregnant and have to take maternity leave is a disgrace in both how it affects their job promotion and how it affects them when they come back after maternity leave. Can we have more leadership and a new charter so that every woman and every employer knows their rights?

The law is very clear: employers are not allowed to discriminate against women on the basis of pregnancy or of their maternity commitments. As part of dealing with the gender pay gap, employers are beginning to talk about how they treat their workforce in a way that they did not a year or two ago. To me, this is part of readjusting what we expect from employers and what employees expect of the people for whom they work.