Ipswich Citizens Advice is warning of a growing problem with new and expectant mums being treated unfairly at work.
New figures from the local charity reveal a 28% rise in people seeking advice on pregnancy and maternity discrimination over the past year.
Pregnancy and maternity discrimination is when you’re treated unfairly because you’re pregnant, breastfeeding or because you’ve recently had a child.
The findings are released as national Citizens Advice publishes analysis revealing the top maternity rights problems faced by pregnant women and new mums. The most frequent issue faced was redundancy or dismissal.
Other maternity rights issues reported by the charity were health and safety assessments being inadequate or not completed, working hours being cut and problems when returning from maternity leave.
There has also been a 100% increase in visits to the pregnancy discrimination advice pages on the charity’s website in the last year.
Ipswich Citizens Advice staff have reported cases where pregnant employees have found themselves singled out for redundancy, or had their working hours reduced for no good reason. One woman came to Citizens Advice because after working for six years for a national retail business, she asked to return to work from maternity leave on a part-time basis as her baby had health problems; her local manager was happy with this arrangement but the head office has demanded that she first resigns and then returns to work under a new contract (thus losing six years’ worth of employment rights).
Ipswich Citizens Advice is highlighting that it is against the law for bosses to discriminate against their employees by refusing to give them their maternity rights at work.
An employer can’t dismiss an employee, cut their hours or stop an employee returning to work after taking maternity leave. When you come back to work you are entitled to return to the same job within the first six months of maternity leave or to an equivalent role if you return within six to twelve months. You are also entitled to request flexible working hours and your employer needs to have a good reason to refuse your request.
Ipswich Citizens Advice is encouraging people to seek help if they think they’re being treated unfairly by their employer.
Nicky Willshere, Chief Executive at Ipswich Citizens Advice said:
“All employers should respect and uphold the rights of their staff.
“It is deeply concerning that we have seen this rise in maternity discrimination cases. The last thing you need to worry about as an expectant parent is a drop in income or losing your job.
“As an employee you cannot be made redundant or have your hours reduced because you are pregnant. Your employer must carry out a health and safety assessment, and on if you return to work within a year you are entitled to return to the same job or an equivalent role.
“If you have concerns about pregnancy or maternity discrimination you can get free, impartial advice by calling Ipswich Citizens Advice on 0300 330 1151 or visiting us at 19 Tower Street, Ipswich.”