HR · 14 September 2016

Treat pregnant women and new mothers in the workplace more fairly, urges European body

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Small business owners have been urged to sign up to the campaign and gain expert advice on handling discrimination in the workplace.

A campaign launched by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) will encourage UK businesses to develop awareness of the rights of pregnant women and new mothers in the workplace.

Royal Mail, Barclays and BT are among the large British companies that have signed up to the new initiative, and the campaign will seek to provide small business owners with knowledge and expertise on how to create a positive working environment for all employees.

Small business minister Margot James has asked firms of all sizes to follow the big brands in signing up to the campaign, emphasising the benefits it could bring to organisations.

“I’m extremely encouraged that some of the UK’s largest businesses have committed to the ECHR’s new campaign and I urge other employers, large and small to add their support.”

Commenting on the new initiative, EHRC chairman David Isaac said it was important to end discrimination in the workplace, and that the benefits of doing so would be felt by the whole economy.

“Attracting, developing and retaining talent, regardless of gender, is absolutely critical for the UK economy and business,” he said.

The launch of the ECHR’s campaign follows the release of research in August, by the government’s committee for women and equalities, which revealed as many as 54,000 pregnant women and new mothers claimed to have been forced to leave their job following discrimination in 2016 alone – a figure that has doubled in the last decade.

Committee chair Maria Miller stressed the negative impact on the wider UK economy of pregnant women and new mothers facing discrimination at work.

“There are now record numbers of women in work in the UK. The economy will suffer unless employers modernise their workplace practices to ensure effective support and protection for expectant and new mums.”

Despite the negative light cast on UK business as a whole with regards to the discrimination of pregnant women, an EHRC report in October 2015 found that the vast majority of smaller firms were supportive of all employees.

The report found that 83 per cent of small businesses believed it was in the interest of their organisation to support pregnant women and those on maternity leave, primarily for the retention of skilled workers.

The EHRC also found that small firms were more likely to be supportive of requests for flexible working hours, and keep regular contact with employees on maternity leave.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Praseeda Nair is the editorial director of Business Advice, and its sister publication for growing businesses, Real Business. She's an impassioned advocate for women in leadership, and likes to profile business owners, advisors and experts in the field of entrepreneurship and management.

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