On 31 August 2016, the Women and Equalities Committee published a report on pregnancy and maternity discrimination showing that the number of expectant and new mothers forced to leave their jobs has almost doubled since 2005.

In the UK, pregnancy and maternity is one of the protected characteristics covered by the Equality Act 2010.

The Women and Equalities Committee was appointed by the House of Commons on 3 June 2015 to examine the expenditure, administration and policy of the Government Equalities Office.

On 22 March 2016, the final reports of the Business Innovation and Skills/Equality Human Rights Commission (‘EHRC’) research into pregnancy and maternity issues at work were published. The research revealed 77% of women reported negative experiences at work related to their pregnancy or maternity.

Although the government accepted some of the EHRC's recommendations it says it will not take any action to change tribunal fees until it has completed its own post-implementation review nor introduce a six-month time limit for tribunal claims involving pregnancy or maternity rights.

The report calls for UK women to have protections similar to those in Germany where from the beginning of pregnancy until four months following childbirth, employers can only dismiss an employee in very rare circumstances and need government approval to do so.

The report recommends a substantial reduction in the fee for women taking pregnancy-related discrimination cases to an employment tribunal, protection from redundancy until six months after the return to work and assurances that rights and protections will not be eroded, following the vote to leave the European Union. The government will respond to the recommendations "in due course".

The report also recommends:
- A substantial reduction in the £1,200 fee for women taking pregnancy-related discrimination cases to an employment tribunal.
- Increasing the three-month limit on taking cases to the tribunal to six months. The government previously stated in its response to the EHRC pregnancy and maternity discrimination report that it will not introduce a six-month limit.
- Assurances that rights and protections would not be eroded, given the uncertainty following the vote to leave the European Union.
- A detailed plan to be published by the government within the next two years.
- Increasing protection for casual, agency and zero-hours workers.
- Protection from redundancy until six months after a return to work.
For further information, please contact Koichiro Nakada – Head of Japan Business Group (koichiro.nakada@lewissilkin.com) and Yoko Nakada - Senior Associate, Deputy Head of Japan Business Group (yoko.nakada@lewissilkin.com).
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