Pregnancy discrimination far from new

Matt Dean




Pregnant women should be protected from redundancy until six months after they return to work to combat “shocking” discrimination, MPs say. The number of expectant mothers forced out of their jobs each year has almost doubled in the past decade from 30,000 in 2005 to 54,000, figures from the Equality and Human Rights Commission show.

The only thing I take issue with is the idea that the number of pregnant women and new mothers being discriminated against has gone up in the last decade. Fifteen years ago this sort of discrimination was rife; so rife that I came up with the term 'Australian temp syndrome' to describe what happened when an employer found that the [inevitably Antipodean] temporary worker they had brought in to cover a maternity was doing a far better job than the person who had been in post previously. 'This is not a redundancy' I used to explain.

Either there are far more women employed now that a decade ago or, more realistically, women feel more able to complain about their treatment. Given the clever arguments about work reallocation etc that employers are able to run and the inequality of bargaining power between employers and employees (particularly those going through life changes) I have always thought that a blanket ban on dismissing women around the time of their pregnancy must be the only way to redress the balance. It's not just (successful) places like Germany who do this. Have a look at Singapore too.