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25% rise in people reporting pregnancy and maternity discrimination to Citizens Advice

2 May 2016

Citizens Advice is warning of a growing problem with new and expectant mums being treated unfairly at work.

New figures from the national charity reveal a 25% rise in people seeking advice on pregnancy and maternity discrimination over the past year. There has also been a 22% increase in people seeking online help, with the charity’s web advice viewed 22,000 times over the last 12 months.

Between April 2015 and March 2016 almost 2,000 people turned to Citizens Advice for help with pregnancy and maternity discrimination, up from just over 1,500 in the previous 12 months.

In 4 out of 5 cases people were also seeking help with problems at work, a third of which were about redundancy or dismissal.

Evidence from Citizens Advice reveals pregnant women and new mums have had their working hours cut, been put onto zero-hours contracts, pressured to return to work early from maternity leave and, in extreme cases, have been forced out of their jobs.

One woman turned to her local Citizens Advice for help when her employer cut her weekly hours by more than half after she told them she was pregnant. Her boss claimed there was not enough work available to keep her on her previous hours, despite taking on new staff at the same time.

Another woman contacted her employer to find out why she hadn’t received any maternity pay. They told her they had ended her contract while she was on maternity leave.

Recent research by the Equality and Human Rights Commission revealed that over three quarters (77%) of mothers reported a negative or possibly discriminatory experience at work during their pregnancy, maternity leave or on their return to work.

It is against the law for bosses to discriminate against their employees by refusing to uphold  their maternity rights at work. Citizens Advice is encouraging people to seek help if they think they’re being treated unfairly by their employer.

Citizens Advice Chief Executive Gillian Guy said:

“Pregnant women should be supported at work, not made to fear for their livelihood.

“It is concerning that more and more new and expectant mums are experiencing  discrimination issues at work.

“People with a baby on the way will have a lot on their minds already. The last thing they need is a threat to their income or job security. All employers should respect and uphold the rights of staff who are new parents or expecting a baby.

“Anyone with concerns about pregnancy or maternity discrimination can get free, impartial advice from their their local Citizens Advice or go to www.citizensadvice.org.uk.”

As pregnancy and maternity discrimination cases rise, Citizens Advice is offering advice for new and expectant mums to help them make the most of their maternity rights at work.

  • When to tell your employer you are pregnant. You must tell your employer you are pregnant at least 15 weeks before your due date to make sure you will be able to take maternity leave and time off for ante-natal care.

  • How to claim Statutory Maternity Pay or Maternity Allowance. Ask your midwife or GP to give you a claim form or you can download it from www.gov.uk/employers-maternity-pay-leave/entitlement.

  • Where to find out about your maternity rights. You can get helpful information from the ACAS helpline on 0300 123 1100 or the EHRC website.

  • How to work out what pay you are entitled to. You can check your legal entitlements using the government’s online calculator. Check your contract or speak to your employer to see if they offer any extra support.

  • Where to go if things go wrong. Sometimes your employer may not know your rights and you may feel you’re not being treated fairly. You can find out more at www.citizensadvice.org.uk or contact your local Citizens Advice for help.

Notes to editors

  1. The Equality and Human Rights Commission has published a series of recommendations to tackle pregnancy and maternity discrimination based on statistical research  carried out in 2016 by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
  2. The Citizens Advice service comprises a network of local Citizens Advice, all of which are independent charities, the Citizens Advice consumer service and national charity Citizens Advice. Together we help people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice and by influencing policymakers. For more see the Citizens Advice website.
  3. The advice provided by the Citizens Advice service is free, independent, confidential and impartial, and available to everyone regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality.
  4. To get advice online or find your local Citizens Advice in England and Wales, visit citizensadvice.org.uk
  5. You can get consumer advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 or 03454 04 05 05 for Welsh language speakers.
  6. Local Citizens Advice in England and Wales advised 2.5 million clients on 6.2 million problems in 2014/15. For full service statistics see our publication Advice trends.
  7. Citizens Advice service staff are supported by more than 21,000 trained volunteers, working at over 2,500 service outlets across England and Wales.