News Blog Pregnant women and mothers hope for greater access to justice with #GiveMeSix campaign 13 MARCH 2017BY JOELI BREARLEY, FOUNDER OF THE 'PREGNANT THEN SCREWED' CAMPAIGN The current law states that you have three months (less one day) to raise a tribunal claim from the point that discrimination occurs. Despite the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the Women and Equalities Select Committee recommending that this time limit be increased to six months for pregnant women and postpartum women, the Government has failed to act. They say there is no evidence to substantiate the claim that the time limit is problematic. At Pregnant Then Screwed we have documented hundreds of stories from victims of pregnancy and maternity discrimination and we have offered both emotional support and highly qualified legal advice to over 1,000 women. We know that the three-month time limit means that pregnant women and postpartum women, who are victims of discrimination, are forced to make a choice between the health of themselves and their baby, and justice. There is clear evidence which demonstrates the negative impact stress can have on the health of an unborn child. The prospect of an employment tribunal generates immense stress, at a time when a woman is incredibly vulnerable. For postpartum women, they are usually dealing with sleepless nights and many are also challenged by issues with their mental or physical health. In both cases a mother’s priority is likely to be her child, as it should be. ONE WOMAN'S STORY: “I work as a solicitor in a highly regarded law firm in the north. Ever since having a baby and returning to work, I have been put through a very difficult year by my employer, not least by not being given the same opportunities as I had prior to having a baby. This culminated with my position being taken away from me shortly after announcing my second pregnancy. Having only three months to bring a claim against my employer has compounded my stress as it has meant that I have had to prepare my file for my solicitor at 39 weeks pregnant, and worry about limitation deadlines within the first week of having a baby. Such a short time limit, when other areas of litigation have limitation periods of up to six years, can only dissuade women from taking up their legal entitlement to pursue their employer if they have been wrongfully treated. I know it initially dissuaded me. A three-month time frame for a new mother to bring a claim is in no way helpful. Legislation should help women to fight injustices in the workplace, and a three-month time limit does just the opposite. I would like this time frame to be extended to ensure women can have the time and confidence to fight for equality in the workplace.’’ PREGNANT WOMEN AND POSTPARTUM WOMEN DESERVE JUSTICE Last year, The Equality and Human Rights Commission found that 54,000 women a year lose their jobs as a direct consequence of maternity or pregnancy discrimination and 77% of working mums endure negative or discriminatory treatment at work. Yet, fewer than 1% raise a Tribunal claim. The law is very clear that discrimination is illegal but the majority of pregnant women and new mums have limited access to justice due to a lack of free legal advice, the high cost of bringing a claim and the restrictive time limit of three months. The number of mums who lose their jobs for getting pregnant has almost doubled in ten years. Far from improving, the situation has drastically deteriorated and significant numbers of women are being affected. With most women being unable to access justice, it is likely we will see further increases in pregnancy or maternity discrimination. The #GiveMeSix campaign will run for six months. It will be an online petition that will be presented to Greg Clark MP and we will collect and release stories from women who have been unable to access justice due to the three-month time limit. As it stands, the petition needs just a few hundred more signatures to reach its target of 50,000. Please sign and share the petition to give pregnant women and postpartum women the justice they deserve. ABOUT AUTHOR Founder of the 'Pregnant then Screwed' campaign, Joeli is a campaigner for gender equality, a creative producer and project manager, and a mother of two young boys.