Maternity leave causes headaches for employers

Maternity leave still causes major headaches for employers, according to a legal expert.

Audrey Williams, head of discrimination law at law firm Eversheds, warned that despite laws against sex discrimination, a sharp rise in claims against employers has shown that bosses still treat pregnant women unfairly compared to colleagues without children.

Last week it was claimed that 58 pregnant women were claiming to have suffered sexual discrimination while working at financial news and data group Bloomberg – many alleging their duties were curbed, or their promotion prospects reduced, after their pregnancies emerged.

Williams said: “This situation gives serious cause for concern. Despite legislation being in place to guard against sex discrimination, this highlights that attitudes towards pregnancy in the workplace remain a problem area for employers.”

She added that employers must manage an employee’s absence during maternity leave effectively.

“When dealing with employees who are pregnant, it is important that employers have an audit trail, carry out risk assessments to identify possible hazards for pregnant workers, and resist the temptation to adjust the employee’s role and responsibilities either during their pregnancy or upon their return to work (unless for legitimate reasons).

“By taking proactive measures, businesses can demonstrate good practice, which can help to minimise the likelihood of a costly claim.”

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