Each year, Maternity Action answers more than 2,500 calls from women facing problems at work because they are pregnant. Many of these women are experiencing discrimination because they are pregnant or a new mother. We explain their rights and what they can do, and we cross our fingers that they can find the time and energy to take action.
Discrimination against pregnant women and new mothers is on the rise. Now, three in every four pregnant women at work will face some form of discrimination or negative treatment, just because they became pregnant. It isn’t fair that women who are dealing with the physical and mental demands of pregnancy and a new baby are also forced to deal with problems at work. We need to do more to prevent pregnancy discrimination, not leave it to women to resolve these conflicts when they are at their most vulnerable.
There are steps we can take to better protect women in the workplace and improve employer practice. Working with unions, advice agencies, parenting groups and health professionals, Maternity Action developed an Action Plan which aims to bring an end to pregnancy discrimination. We know that we need changes to the law and justice system, strong leadership from Government, greater transparency from employers and more information and support flowing through to women and their families.
The Scottish Government’s Pregnancy and Maternity Discrimination Working Group is a step in the right direction. It was great to attend this week’s meeting chaired by the Minister for Employability and Training Jamie Hepburn. The group is developing a work plan to reduce the number of women encountering negative and discriminatory experiences of pregnancy and maternity in the workplace and to increase positive experiences. As we mark International Women’s Day and this year’s theme of forging a better working world, it’s clear that this kind of action is crucial.
Reversing the rise in pregnancy discrimination is a big task which needs the active support of employers, unions, voluntary organisations and Government agencies. We are delighted to see the Scottish Government attacking this issue head-on.