A Bill has been presented to Parliament by Maria Miller, Chair of the Women and Equalities committee, seeking to extend protection in employment law for women returning from maternity leave. I spoke with BBC Radio London to discuss the proposals in more detail and what they set out to achieve.
At present, the law protects women from the moment they notify their employer of their pregnancy and through their maternity leave. The proposed Bill will extend this for a further 6 months on return to work. Although this is not a 'free pass' against dismissal, it does afford women some extra protections, especially in redundancy situations.
As you will hear, the statistics don't look good, with a 2016 report finding that 1 in 9 women leave the workplace after returning from maternity leave. But look a little deeper and you will find that the majority of women leave the workplace not because they are made redundant (1%) or fired (1%), but because they feel poorly treated.
Although the change in law will go some way to providing women more protection, a much bigger programme of legal and cultural reform is required to bring about real change and put women on an equal footing at work.
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The piece of legislation seeks to prohibit redundancy during pregnancy and maternity leave and for six months after the end of the pregnancy or leave apart from in specified circumstances.