Early Day Motions
An Early Day Motion is a formal motion submitted for debate in the House of Commons. However, very few are apparently ever actually debated but instead are seen as a way for MPs to draw attention to a particular event or cause. MPs can register their support by signing individual motions.
The Early Day Motion relating to pregnancy and maternity discrimination at work has been sponsored by Caroline Lucas, the leader of the Green Party, but has gathered cross-party support and currently has 74 signatures attached to it.
Potentially Discriminatory Treatment at Work
The motion refers to the shocking findings of previous research conducted by the Equality and Human Rights Commission on behalf of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. The research revealed that over three quarters of pregnant women and new mothers (77%) – the equivalent of 390,000 women - experience negative and potentially discriminatory treatment at work each year. A total of 11% - the equivalent of around 54,000 - are forced out of their jobs.
The motion also refers to research conducted earlier this year by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Maternal Mental Health Alliance, which found that 81% of female survey respondents reported experiencing at least one episode of a mental health problem during or after their pregnancy. Low mood was experienced by over two thirds of these women, anxiety by around half and depression by just over a third. A recent study by NCT revealed similar findings, but also identified that nearly half (42%) of new mothers’ mental health problems did not get picked up by a doctor or other health professional.
Barriers to Accessing Justice
Despite the widespread nature of pregnancy and maternity discrimination, it appears that there are still many obstacles preventing women from taking legal action against it. The main barriers to justice mentioned include a lack of free legal advice, the prohibitive cost of employment tribunal fees and a restrictive three month time limit. The motion notes that as a result of these deterrents, less than 1% of women who have been affected by this type of discrimination brought a claim in an employment tribunal.
Through the motion, MPs have therefore called on the Government to take action to help women overcome these obstacles and improve access to justice.
One important step the Government could take towards achieving greater access to justice for these women is to follow the recommendation made by the EHRC, and the also by the Justice Committee and the Women and Equalities Committee, to extend the time limit for women to bring pregnancy and maternity discrimination claims to six months. This additional three months could make a real difference for women who have to cope with the life-changing event of a new baby while coming to terms with the realisation that they have potentially been unfairly and unlawfully treated by their employer.
If you have suffered pregnancy or maternity discrimination at work and would like to find out more about your legal rights, then contact us today for direct, sympathetic advice from an experienced employment lawyer.
Contains Parliamentary information licensed under the Open Parliament Licence v3.0.