The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) is encouraging employers to share
their difficulties in managing pregnancy, as part of an investigation into
maternity-related discrimination launched this month.
The EOC says the investigation, which has backing from the European Social
Fund, has been launched in response to the fact that its helpline has received
more enquiries about this than any other sex discrimination issue.
It will be guided by an external advisory group including employer representatives,
and chaired by Fiona Cannon, head of equality at Lloyds TSB.
Research released for the launch suggests that unfair treatment of working
pregnant women may be widespread. A survey of 1,200 adults revealed that around
a fifth knew someone who had experienced problems at work because of their
pregnancy, from unpleasant remarks or unfounded criticism, to downgraded
appraisals, missed bonuses or being sacked.
Cannon said it was vital employers told the EOC about their own difficulties
in managing pregnancy and maternity issues.
"For the next 18 months, we will be looking at the situation in detail
through the eyes of the employer as well as the individual.
"To make sure our recommendations tackle this problem, it is vital we
fully understand the difficulties faced by some employers and I would like to
urge organisations, large and small, to contact the EOC with examples of the
problems they have faced."
The ‘Pregnant and Productive’ investigation will run until February 2005,
when the EOC intends to make recommendations to the Secretary of State for
Trade and Industry on how to tackle the problem.
For more information and to record your comments, go to the EOC website at http://www.eoc.org.uk/EOCeng/dynpages/Pregnancy_Maternity3.asp
The EOC’s External Advisory Group
– Fiona Cannon (chair), head of equality, Lloyds TSB
– Glyn House, equality and diversity manager, Sainsbury’s
– Caroline Waters, head of employment policy, BT
– Janet Gaymer, senior partner, Simmons & Simmons and chair
of the Employment Tribunal Taskforce
– Sarah Veale, head of equality, TUC
– Shona Simon, chair, Employment Tribunal Edinburgh
– Christine Gowdridge, director, Maternity Alliance
– Isabel Bahrani, EOC-supported applicant in pregnancy