EOC to investigate discrimination against mothers

Pregnant
women across the country are being treated so badly by employers that the Equal
Opportunities Commission (EOC) is to launch a major investigation.

The
equality body is so concerned at widespread reports of discrimination against
pregnant women that it will start an inquiry later this year.

Julie
Mellor, chair of the EOC, said the investigation will look into the number of
women affected as well as the cost to individuals and the economy.

"Women
should not have to face this problem in the 21st century. Discriminating
against expectant employees often causes talented women to simply give up on
work completely, which harms their families and also damages the UK economy,
which needs their skills," she said.

The
investigation was prompted  by trade and
industry secretary Patricia Hewitt following an industrial tribunal which heard
how a new mother received her P45 inside a congratulations card.

"It
is depressing that something as natural as childbirth is still seen as an alien
and unwelcome concept by some employers," said Hewitt.

This
was supported by extensive research by the EOC, which showed this type of
complaint arose most often on the group’s helpline and that 200 similar
tribunals had taken place between 1999-2002.The evidence also highlights the breadth
of discrimination that appears to affect the whole workforce. The EOC claims it
has received complaints from all industries, with professions as diverse as
solicitors, dental nurses and shop assistants affected.

In
addition to dismissal, pregnant women also endure a lack of promotion, change
of salary terms, non-payment of bonus and unfair criticism.

According
to research, many women who leave work to have children subsequently struggle
to return to the same employment status pre-maternity.

By
Ross Wigham

www.eoc.org.uk

The
case that galvanised Hewitt into action


The catalyst for the investigation was the case of a new mother who was sent a
congratulations card from her employer, which also contained her P45.

Carol
Bonehill was awarded almost £9,000 compensation for sexual discrimination and
unfair dismissal at an industrial tribunal.

Patricia
Hewitt branded her employer’s actions as "Victorian" and a
"disgrace".

However,
PH Adams Electrical Contractors claimed it had dismissed Bonehill for
persistent poor timekeeping.

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