Parliament just voted on this crucial bill to protect expectant mothers at work

Written by Amy Beecham

Stylist spoke to Labour MP Dan Jarvis, the sponsor of the new Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Bill, about how the proposed changes will benefit working parents.

According to a report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), 54,000 women in the UK are forced out of their jobs every year because of pregnancy discrimination.

This scandal is what prompted Labour MP for Barnsley Centraland Shadow Minister for Justice Dan Jarvis to put forward the newProtection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) bill, which today (3 February) passed its final debate in the House of Commons.

“I’ve had countless conversations with women as a consequence of this bill who have told me about the discrimination that they’ve faced simply because they were pregnant, so I just thought that there was a moral injustice that needed to be righted,” he tells Stylist.

The EHRC report also found that one in five mothers experienced harassment and negative comments because of their pregnancy and 10% of mothers were discouraged from taking time off for their antenatal care.

The bill, Jarvis says, will extend the existing protections that are available under the Maternity and Parental Leave Etc Regulations for pregnant women, providing a “framework that will prevent employers discriminating against people based on the fact that they’re pregnant”.

Currently, employers have a legal obligation to offer suitable alternative employment, where a vacancy exists, to a parent who is on maternity leave, shared parental leave or adoption leave as soon as their job is at risk of redundancy. However, the period of protection is limited to the duration of the leave.

The bill aims to extend this redundancy protection so it applies to pregnant people from the moment their employer is informed until 18 weeks after the end of the pregnancy, as well as covering new parents returning to work from a relevant form of leave. This, Jarvis says, will help shield new parents and expectant mothers from workplace discrimination, offering them greater job security at an important time in their lives.

“Having a child is already a stressful experience, but particularly at the moment amid the cost of living crisis, with soaring inflation and unaffordable childcare costs,” he shares. “There are huge pressures on those who want to start a family, and while it’s not a silver bullet solution, if it is successful, it will provide a significant amount additional protection and security for women and parents taking shared parental and adoption leave in the workforce.”

The bill has collected cross-party support within parliament and will proceed to reading stages within the House of Lords. However, it is as yet unclear when the new rights will come into force.

As for the wider context of maternity rights, Jarvis acknowledges that this bill is just the beginning. “There’s a lot of work to be done to ensure that there is the best kind of support available for families and that children are being given the best chance in life.

“If we’re going to talk about ‘levelling up’, I think we really need to be investing in children’s services to make sure of that.”

Images: Getty

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