The Equality and Human Rights Commission (ECHR), which represents Great Britain, launched their Working Forward initiative
Let’s be quite clear. There are various pieces of very important legislation that give women statutory employment rights during and after pregnancy.
Although this legislation varies in Great Britain and Northern Ireland, fundamentally, the rights are the same – for example, the right to maternity leave, protection from discrimination, the accrual of annual leave through maternity leave, the right to antenatal care and the right to return to work.
Recently, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (ECHR), which represents Great Britain, launched their Working Forward initiative. This was in response to commission research with (the now defunct) Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) that looked at workplace maternity-related discrimination (ie, in pregnancy and motherhood). The research report is certainly worth reading, as it does expose some shocking discrimination trends and workplace misunderstandings, not least the headline statistics that showed:
• 84% of employers recognise the need to support pregnant employees and those on maternity leave, while
• 77% of new mothers said that they has experienced at least one discriminatory experience at work
Therefore, Working Forward encourages employers in Great Britain to recognise their statutory obligations and, also, the important role that pregnant workers and new mothers play in the workplace. It asks employers to make an online “pledge” to:
1. “Demonstrate leadership from the top down” (ie, make sure that everyone in the company is aware of their statutory obligations).
2. “Ensuring confident employees” (ie, making sure that employees are aware of their statutory rights and are able to talk about these in the workplace).
3. “Training and supporting line managers” (ie, making them aware that pregnancy and motherhood does not need to be a difficult thing to manage in the workplace).
4. “Offer flexible working practices” (ie, recognise that there is a statutory obligation to do this anyway and think “creatively” about how this could work for pregnant workers and mothers in line with business requirements).
Great British employers that sign the pledge will be supported by information and material sent back by ECHR. I fully support this. There is no doubt that it is an admirable initiative and, in the same voice, there is no doubt that employers should be aware of their statutory obligations, at the very least.
Quite why the initiative does not make reference to employees that are becoming parents via adoption is, I believe, an unfortunate omission. So, while supporting Working Forward, employers should not forget that the same or similar statutory obligations apply in the following cases:
• Employees taking adoption leave.
• Employees taking paternity leave.
• Employees taking shared parental leave.