A woman is protected not only from discrimination on the grounds of sex (as men are too) but also from discrimination due to maternity and pregnancy. An employee is protected from this type of discrimination during the "protected period" which is from the start of the pregnancy until the return from maternity leave. Having received more than 14,000 calls last year about this type of discrimination - almost 10% more than the previous year - ACAS have recently published guidance aimed at helping employers create supportive workplace for women during pregnancy and maternity leave. The guidance includes numerous practical examples of how discrimination can occur as well as pointers on how to prevent it and deal with it if it does arise.
ACAS have also published new online guidance for employers outlining what kind of behaviour could be considered to be sexual harassment in the workplace and how to report it, including how to deal with historic allegations and when to involve the police.
Maternity at Work, a charity aimed at ending inequality for pregnant women has published a report highlighting the problem of unfair and/or discriminatory redundancy of pregnant women. The report finds that one in every 20 women who are pregnant or on maternity leave are made redundant either during the pregnancy, while on leave or on their return to work. It also highlights that, according to research from the Equality and Human Rights Commission, in 2016 77% of pregnant women and new mothers experienced discrimination or negative experiences during their pregnancy, maternity leave or on return to work. This research also suggested that 11% of mothers (equating to 54,000 women) lost their job as a result of maternity discrimination each year. These figures show significant increases from a similar study undertaken in 2005. The report's recommendations include:-
- new legal protections against unfair redundancy operating from pregnancy until 6 months after the end of maternity or shared parental leave;
- the protections should be extended to fathers and partners taking paternity, shared parental and parental leave during their child's first year; and
- the time limit for making a claim to a tribunal should be extended to six months for women from the start of their pregnancy through until 6 months after their return to work.
The UK Government undertook to review redundancy protection in January 2017 but this has not yet been acted upon.
The CIPD have also recently published a report, this time in relation to barriers to black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) career progression. The report offers insight, support and guidance for employers and examines barriers to access and career progression for black and minority ethnic individuals and highlights some concerning results including that 29% of BAME say discrimination is the cause of lack of career progression.
And finally, new guidance has been published by the Department of Work and Pensions on the Fit for Work Scheme. This coincides with an announcement that in England and Wales the scheme has been scaled down due to low levels of occupational health referrals. The Guidance can be found here.