Working mums advised to seek advice on maternity leave rights to avoid discrimination

Good legal advice is increasingly crucial if working mothers are to avoid discrimination as they return from maternity leave, claims a Leicestershire employment lawyer.

Vaishali Thakerar, an associate solicitor with law firm Lawson-West, spoke out after a study by the Equality and Human Rights Commission found that 54,000 new mums lose their jobs in Britain each year – double the amount a decade ago.

But while the study identified a national spike in numbers, Vaishali maintains that maternity discrimination has always been an issue.

She said: “This report clearly shows that many UK employers are completely disregarding the legislation which is there to protect working mums.

“Pregnant employees are legally entitled to paid time off for antenatal care, statutory maternity leave and maternity pay, and it is important that they are fully aware of their rights.

“Unfortunately, as employment lawyers we have seen – and continue to see – far too many cases of pregnant women and new mothers who are discriminated against by their employers.”

Of those mums who keep their jobs, many discover that having a child can be a barrier to career progression.

Vaishali added: “Working mothers who go part-time to balance work with childcare responsibilities can find they are passed over for promotions, for example. Some women report feeling undervalued by their employers and colleagues. Many also feel obliged to work harder than full-time staff to prove their worth in the workplace.”

The EHRC report, which was produced in conjunction with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, found that 10 per of the 3,200 women surveyed had been discouraged by their employers from attending antenatal appointments.

One in nine respondents had experienced compulsory redundancy or dismissal as a result of their pregnancy, while one in 20 had their pay or bonuses cut after going back to work.  Of those surveyed seven per cent claimed to have been pressurised to hand in their notice.

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