EOC calls on HR after shock pregnancy poll

The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) wants HR’s input in
its major investigation into pregnancy-related workplace discrimination.

Initial EOC research shows many women are experiencing
problems at work due to their pregnancies, and the EOC wants to delve deeper
before making recommendations to Patricia Hewitt, secretary of state for Trade
and Industry.

Now the EOC wants the employers’ perspective, and is asking
Personnel Today readers to share their experiences.

Since launching a major investigation into pregnancy-related
workplace discrimination in September, the EOC has received 240 calls from
women. Of that number, 45 per cent complained of having been dismissed,
threatened with dismissal or redundancy, or feeling forced to resign during
their pregnancy.

More than 1,000 women lodge pregnancy-related unfair
dismissal claims in England and Wales each year. Although most are settled
before going to a full tribunal hearing, EOC chair Julie Mellor warned this was
only the tip of the iceberg.

"The next step is to understand why some firms manage
pregnancy successfully, but others find it difficult," she said. "We
will make recommendations to all employers to make it easier."

The EOC launched the investigation after receiving more
calls to its helpline about the treatment of pregnant women than any other
issue. It is concerned that some bosses view pregnancy as being incompatible
with employment, and that some firms have become better at dressing up their
real reasons for dismissal.

Maternity leave in the UK is more generous than many EU
countries, but its maternity pay is among the worst.

However, Caroline Carter, head of employment at law firm
Ashurst, said there was an increased awareness of maternity rights among
employers, and that many firms were becoming more family-friendly.

"More and more employers are realising the value of
retaining women in employment after childbirth," she said. "This is
why we are seeing more flexible approaches being taken."

To take part in the EOC research, e-mail: managingpregnancy@eoc.org.uk

Causes for concern

● The EOC has received 240 calls from women since
launching the investigation
● More than 1,000 pregnancy-related unfair dismissal claims are lodged at
tribunals in England and Wales every year
● Around 250,000 UK employees are pregnant at any one time

By Roisin Woolnough

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