Pain for pregnant workers avoidable

The number of women leaving work each year over pregnancy discrimination could be dramatically reduced, a leading health and safety company says.

As many as 30,000 working women are forced out of their jobs annually because of pregnancy discrimination, including being denied promotion and bonuses, facing verbal abuse and employers failing to make adequate provisions for them.
Employers who fail to support new and expectant mothers are creating unnecessary risk, both for themselves and their employees, says Mitchell Winter, Managing Director of health & safety specialists Winter & Company.

“Businesses can protect themselves and their workers by acknowledging and acting on their legal obligations to undertake a Risk Assessment as soon as they are informed their employee is expecting,” he advises.

Some 60 per cent of employers are unaware they are required to do this, but the blame is not wholly attributable to them.

About three quarters of expectant mothers are unaware they are required to inform their employer of their expected arrival as soon as they are able to.

“Where the employer’s assessment identifies risks that cannot be avoided through prevention, the employer is obliged to ease those risks in other ways or else leave themselves open to prosecution,” Mr Winter warns.

Such steps include altering employee’s working conditions or hours of work, offering them other suitable alternative work, or suspending the employee from work on full pay.

Results from a survey by the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) regarding ignorance by employers towards pregnant employees have just been branded “shocking” by analysts following their release.

Nearly half of the 1,000 women surveyed by the agency said they had experienced some form of discrimination while pregnant or on maternity leave and one in five said they had lost out financially.

One in 20 disclosed they were put under pressure to hand in their notice when they announced they were expecting a baby.

The Federation of Small Businesses responded to the figures by calling on the government to drop its ban on employers requesting details from pregnant employees about their plans for return to work.

“Far from being the way forward, this approach would only serve to cover over a wound that wouldn’t have happened in the first place if the employer had sought advice from an expert to assess both the employer’s and employee’s needs at the start,” Mr Winter concluded.