Despite parents being protected from unfair treatment during pregnancy and maternity or paternity leave by The Equality Act 2010, many employers may be flouting the law.
According to research from Direct Line Life Insurance, in the last 12 months more than two thirds (71 per cent) of employment law professionals reported an increase in disputes where employees’ working hours were reduced when they returned from maternity leave.
Unfair dismissal cases are also on the rise, with 70 per cent of employment law experts witnessing an increase in women claiming they were fired when on maternity leave.
Employers are also increasingly turning to so-called ‘gagging orders’ to ensure confidentiality when settling pregnancy and maternity related discrimination claims. In the last 12 months, 84 per cent of employment law experts have seen an increase in the number of Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) used by employers following pregnancy and maternity-related disputes.
Legal professionals report a rise in the number of cases where women claim they were demoted upon returning to work following maternity leave, with 64 per cent saying these claims have increased in the last 12 months.
The law states those returning to work after Ordinary Maternity Leave (the first 26 weeks of maternity leave) have the right to return to their old job on their old terms and conditions.
If a parent takes additional maternity leave (a second six months of leave) they have the right to return to their old job on their existing terms and conditions unless it is “not reasonably practicable”, in which case they must be offered a suitable alternative job with similar terms and conditions.
Almost two thirds (63 per cent) of employment law experts have also seen an increase in claims from those made redundant while on maternity leave.
Table one: Increase in pregnancy and maternity discrimination claims in the last 12 months
|Pregnancy and maternity related discrimination claims||Percentage of employment law professionals that have seen an increase in claims in the last 12 months|
|Disputes over reduction in hours when claimant returned from maternity leave||71 per cent|
|Claims because people have been dismissed while on maternity leave||70 per cent|
|Demotion on return to work||64 per cent|
|Claims because people have been made redundant while on maternity leave||63 per cent|
|Pay disputes while claimant was on maternity leave||61 per cent|
|Claims because people have been dismissed while pregnant||58 per cent|
|Disputes over time off for medical appointments while pregnant||58 per cent|
|Disputes over reduction in hours while claimant was pregnant||57 per cent|
|Harassment due to pregnancy||57 per cent|
|Disputes over promotion while claimant was on maternity leave||56 per cent|
Source: Direct Line Life Insurance
Jane Morgan, Business Manager at Direct Line Life Insurance, said: “In today’s world it is concerning that we are seeing an increase in mums and dads being seemingly penalised as a result of spending time with their children. Employers and employees have a responsibility to educate themselves about their rights, which could help to reduce the rise of discrimination claims and ensure parents have reasonable expectations.
“It is also important for parents to investigate the financial protections that are available outside the workplace when starting a family. Life insurance with critical illness cover could provide essential funds to help offset the loss of a salary and meet the costs of education or childcare should the worst happen.”
Mothers aren’t the only ones experiencing an increase in workplace discrimination due to pregnancy. In the last 12 months, there has also been an increase in claims made by fathers. There has been a 63 per cent increase in cases of fathers claiming they have been demoted upon returning to work and a 61 per cent increase in disputes related to promotions while the claimant was on paternity leave.
There has also been an increase in men claiming unfair dismissal (59 per cent) and pay disputes (58 per cent) while on paternity leave. Fathers are also claiming employer harassment for taking paternity leave despite it being a legal right, with over half (56 per cent) of legal experts seeing an increase in these disputes in the last 12 months.
Table two: Increase in paternity related discrimination claims in the last 12 months
|Paternity related discrimination claims||Percentage of employment law professionals that have seen an increase in claims in the last 12 months|
|Demotion on return to work||63 per cent|
|Disputes over promotion while claimant was on paternity leave||61 per cent|
|Claims because people have been dismissed while on paternity leave||59 per cent|
|Pay disputes while claimant was on paternity leave||58 per cent|
|Harassment due to taking paternity leave||56 per cent|
Source: Direct Line Life Insurance