A Croydon-based firm of solicitors is offering a free advice service for employers and employees concerned about the workplace rights of pregnant women and women on maternity leave.
In 2005, the Equal Opportunities Commission found that more than 30,000 women had been sacked, made redundant or received unfair treatment at work due to pregnancy and maternity discrimination. Ten years later, the Equality and Human Rights Commission undertook further research which showed that the number of women discriminated against had nearly doubled.
Despite the Women and Equalities Committee (WEC) making specific recommendations about how this type of discrimination could be tackled, “the recent response by the government has been lacklustre”, according to Martin Searle Solicitors, whose offices are on Lansdowne Road, near East Croydon Station, and who are offering the free telephone advice service this month, coinciding with International Women’s Day on March 8.
The solicitors’ offer is, in part, a response to the government’s introduction of a £1,200 fee for women bringing discrimination claims to employment tribunals. The fee has deterred many from pursuing their cases, and there has been a 65 per cent fall in all Employment Tribunal claims. “When scrutinising decreasing claims made by women for sex discrimination, the impact was a lot greater, with a 80 per cent drop,” according to the solicitors.
“Since we started our law firm in 2004, we have campaigned to stamp out pregnancy and maternity discrimination in the workplace,” said Fiona Martin, a director at Martin Searle and their head of employment law.
“However, we have seen this type of discrimination drastically increase. Despite the government stating that they would take a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to discrimination they are failing to take the specific measures recommended by the WEC to try to eradicate pregnancy and maternity discrimination.
“International Women’s Day on March 8 has a higher profile than ever but women seem to be facing more injustice and intolerance rather than gaining greater rights. The fact that pregnancy and maternity discrimination is now the most common form of sex discrimination strikes at the heart of women’s economic independence and affects women of all classes and their families.
“It is important that we continue to educate and support employers while advising employees of their rights in order to shift cultural attitudes in the workplace. It is not surprising that the uptake for men taking Shared Parental Leave has been so low. Why would men who aspire to gain promotion risk being unfairly treated in the way they have seen their female counterparts discriminated against?”
Throughout March, Martin Searle Solicitors employment law team will provide free advice on pregnancy and maternity rights and responsibilities, Shared Parental Leave, maternity leave and return to work issues, for both employers and employees.
For free and confidential advice, employers and employees can call Martin Searle Solicitors’ pregnancy and maternity legal helpline Mondays and Thursdays throughout March from 4pm to 6pm on 01273 609911, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To support their campaign, Martin Searle Solicitors have also produced a series of factsheets, case studies and FAQs for employers and employees covering basic pregnancy and maternity rights in the workplace, returning to work after maternity, as well as avoiding pregnancy discrimination in a redundancy process. For more details visit www.ms-solicitors.co.uk.
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