20 May 2019

Maria Miller MP, Chair of the cross-party Women and Equalities Select Committee, will present a bill to Parliament on 21st May which will prohibit employers from making women redundant during pregnancy and for six months after their return from maternity leave except in exceptional circumstances.

The Pregnancy and Maternity (Protection from Redundancy) Bill is backed by women’s organisations Maternity Action ¹ and the Fawcett Society, and is similar to the legal model used in Germany.  

The rate of redundancy for women who are pregnant, on maternity leave, or recently returned from maternity leave is more than double the rate for all women in the workforce.² The EHRC estimates that pregnancy and maternity-related discrimination costs women between £47m and £113m each year.  

Rosalind Bragg, Director of Maternity Action, says:

“We support this Bill because we know from the women who call our advice line that the existing protections simply aren't working. Even though it is illegal to select a woman for redundancy because she is pregnant or on maternity leave, this is exactly what happens to many women of the women who call us for advice. The proposals set out in this Bill make it harder for employers to force women out of their jobs just because they are pregnant or on maternity leave.”

Sam Smethers, Fawcett Society Chief Executive, says:

"The limited improvements proposed by the Government won't solve the problem of too many pregnant women being unfairly forced out of their jobs. We need to simplify the law and send a clear message that you cannot make new mothers redundant, so that women understand their rights and employers do too. Ministers need to support the proposals in this Bill to become a reality."

Notes for editors

1. Maternity Action is a registered charity (1128776) that provides information and advice on the rights and entitlements of pregnant women, young children and their families. All our work is based on rigorous research, influencing local, regional and national services. https://www.maternityaction.org.uk

The Fawcett Society is the UK’s leading charity campaigning for gender equality and women’s rights at work, at home and in public life. www.fawcettsociety.org.uk 

2. The (Jan-Mar 2019) ONS data for the redundancy rate for all women in the UK is 2.6%. The Equality and Human Rights Commission found 6% of over 3,000 women they surveyed had been made redundant at some point during pregnancy, maternity leave, or on return from maternity leave.

3. The ONS report is here:  https://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peoplenotinwork/redundancies/timeseries/bejd/lms

4. The EHRC research on pregnancy and maternity discrimination research findings: https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/managing-pregnancy-and-maternity-workplace/pregnancy-and-maternity-discrimination-research-findings