It should be illegal to make a new mother redundant from the moment she tells her employer she is pregnant until six months after her return to work, the Labour party has urged the government.
Stronger protections for pregnant and new mothers have been proposed by the opposition party as part of a series of policies it believes would protect and promote gender equality as the UK recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Numerous studies have highlighted the disproportionate effects the pandemic has had on women, and earlier this year the Women and Equalities Committee found the government overlooked the labour market and caring inequalities faced by women when it formulated its response to the crisis and introduced schemes such as furlough.
If it gained power, Labour would make it illegal for employers to make a new mother redundant from the moment she informs her employer about her pregnancy until six months after her return to work, except in specific circumstances such as a business closure or mass redundancy exercise.
Pregnancy or maternity
It also called on the government to immediately reinstate gender pay gap reporting enforcement. Only one in four firms published their 2020 reports ahead of the usual deadline earlier this year, and thousands are still outstanding. All organisations now have until 5 October 2021 to publish their 2020 snapshot data.
Labour also wants to introduce ethnicity pay gap reporting and to “modernise” equal pay laws to give women the right to know what their male counterpart earns. The shared parental leave scheme should also be reviewed, it said.
Speaking on the 51st anniversary of the Equal Pay Act on Saturday (29 May), shadow women and equalities secretary Marsha de Cordova said action is needed to stop a “two-tier recovery” from the pandemic.
“Making it illegal to make a new mother redundant during pregnancy and maternity leave, except in very specific circumstances, is a simple robust way to end discrimination,” she said.
The government has already announced plans to extend legal protections against redundancy to new mothers until six months after they return to work, except in specified circumstances. The Pregnancy and Maternity (Redundancy Protection) Bill had its first reading in the House of Commons July 2020, but a date for its second reading is yet to be set.