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MumsnetGuestPosts (MNHQ) Fri 26-Jul-19 13:19:00

Guest post: “Pregnant women and new mums are twice as likely to be made redundant”

Maternity Action speak to hundreds of women who have lost their job while pregnant or on maternity leave. In this guest post Head of Policy and Campaigns Scarlet Harris talks about Maternity Action’s campaign for tougher laws.

Scarlet Harris

Head of Policy and Campaigns, Maternity Action

Posted on: Fri 26-Jul-19 13:19:00


Lead photo

“The fact that women are so frequently targeted for unfair dismissal in pregnancy is disastrous for gender equality”

Losing a job is one of the most stressful things that can happen. In fact, losing a job ranks as the fifth most stressful life event, compared to the arrival of a first baby which ranks eleventh. Combine those two major life events, losing a job while pregnant or on maternity leave, and any of us would expect our stress levels to be off the scale.

At Maternity Action we speak to hundreds of women in precisely this situation. We answer about 2000 calls per year and each month deal with about 20 calls from women who are being made redundant. At a time when they had hoped their team would be organising a good luck card and a bunch of flowers, instead they find their boss has been organising their P45.

According to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, around one in 20 mothers (6%) are made redundant at some point during their pregnancy, maternity leave, or when they return to work after maternity leave. We don’t know the circumstances of all of these redundancies. Maybe some of them were genuine redundancy situations. But when we look at overall redundancy figures for all women, it’s clear that there’s something else at play here. Pregnant women and new mums are twice as likely to be made redundant compared to all women in the labour market.

We were recently contacted by a woman who was booked to give birth by caesarean section the following week and had just been notified by her employer that her role had been identified as being at risk of redundancy and she was invited to apply for her new role with assessments and interviews over the course of the month following her caesarean.

At a time when they had hoped their team would be organising a good luck card and a bunch of flowers, instead they find their boss has been organising their P45

For the individual women facing redundancy that we speak to on our advice line, this is a hugely stressful and often financially ruinous event. At a collective level, the fact that women are so frequently targeted for unfair dismissal in pregnancy is disastrous for gender equality, for women’s economic independence, for the gender pay gap, and for the wider economy.

So what can we do about it? We already have laws that should protect women from losing their jobs just because they’re having a baby. Pregnancy and maternity are protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010. The regulations which set out maternity and paternity leave entitlements compel employers to offer any suitable alternative role to a woman on maternity leave if she is selected for redundancy. Yet we know from the EHRC research and from the many women who call our advice line that employers are simply ignoring the law. This leaves women who have been unfairly dismissed with the unenviable prospect of taking their employer to tribunal within three months of being made redundant, while on maternity leave, recovering from labour and in a postnatal haze of sleep deprivation.

One woman who called our advice line recently was told her role was being made redundant when she was due to return to work after ten months’ maternity leave. Rather than being offered suitable alternative work, as the regulations require employers to do, she was instead being invited to attend interviews for a post for which all candidates were asked to provide a project plan for the role for the next six months which, after nearly a year out of the workplace, clearly put her at a huge disadvantage.

At Maternity Action we’re campaigning for a tougher law which would simply prohibit employers from making a woman redundant throughout pregnancy and until six months after return from maternity leave, except in a few limited circumstances, such as the whole business going bust.

Forcing pregnant women and new mothers out of the workplace is bad for women, bad for family incomes, and bad for the economy.

It’s time we had laws that actually work for pregnant women and new mothers.

Find out more about our campaign here

Keep an eye out for our next Mumsnet clinic

If you’re pregnant, on maternity leave, or recently returned to work after maternity leave and you have a problem at work, you can contact our advice line from 10am-1pm on Monday-Friday or you can check our information sheets.

By Scarlet Harris

Twitter: @MaternityAction

divafever99 Fri 26-Jul-19 16:44:25

So pleased to here this work is going on. I was informed I would be made redundant when I was 20 weeks pregnant, and this was going to happen the day I commenced my maternity leave. It was an incredibly stressful time, and it took away some of the joy of pregnancy. A couple of weeks later the organisation advertised 2 new posts, which I was more than qualified to do. They didn't even inform me, I found the job advert by chance. Senior management had no idea they were supposed to offer me this alternative role and said they had no obligation to do so. Following legal advice they were informed that I should be offered the alternative role. They did make me go for an interview though, and by this time I was heavily pregnant. That was also very stressful, going through the interview process and doing a presentation when I should have been looking forward to the start of my maternity leave. This is 4 years ago now, I am still with the same organisation, mainly because I do like the job and the hours fit in well around the dc, but I'm still incredibly bitter about it all and the way I was treated.

Pamplem00se Fri 26-Jul-19 20:08:38

I was made redundant six months ago... a process the start of which can be traced precisely to me having a miscarriage and them realising my family wasn't complete. In fact my employer tried to harass me into not having the time off sick recorded as pregnancy related which would have made it even easier to make me redundant. I wish I had the strength to put a Freedom of Information request in for all of the communications relating to my redundancy and follow it up as I've probably lost 10k+ as a result and more from having to take alternative work part time. Sadly after my mother's suicide and being heavily pregnant I probably don't have the energy.

Ticklemeelmo Fri 26-Jul-19 22:26:31

I am pregnant and being made redundant currently and my only viable option to get any maternity pay as part of this is to sign a non disclosure agreement that prevents me from telling anyone about the agreement, or making any kind of court claim.

This legislation deserves to be more widely known, I sincerely hope it is passed into law.

I've tried contacting Maternity Action a few times and unfortunately never got through or a callback.

jent85 Fri 26-Jul-19 22:46:17

Thank god this is being looked into in detail and I hope an absolute song and dance is made about it.

I was "made redundant" at 20 weeks pregnant meaning I didn't qualify for mat pay.

My colleague was "made redundant" 1 month previously at 25 weeks pregnant.

We are both in the process of taking this employer to tribunal. I don't want their dirty money. I want them to learn they cannot ruin people lives like this. So many employers think they can use "redundancy" as a way of getting rid of pregnant staff. It is disgusting and the stress and upset put upon me and my colleague during this time was immense.

This needs to be a HUGE thing and it needs to STOP!

Location19 Fri 26-Jul-19 22:54:29

Yes I was made redundant whilst being in may leave. The male colleagues that was hired as my cover got a job but I was made redundant 😤. I was working for a major corporate Bank at the time

ButtercupGirI Sat 27-Jul-19 09:06:29

I work in a team of men and being the only female have young child responsibility (one other have wife looking after his son), it's hardly surprising they put me onto the table for redundancy.

Just another discrimination that is difficult to tackle, whether it is sexism, racism, ageism, disablism etc.

I have all of above apart from disablism, although I have social anxiety and it's obvious to everyone who speak to me.

Just don't know what chance I have anymore, still got bills to pay, 20 years of working life before retirement sad Anyone in the same boat?

Cyclemad222 Sat 27-Jul-19 16:45:02

Good luck with that now this right wing shit storm is in power. If they had their way there would be zero maternity rights.

benderinabun Sat 27-Jul-19 18:02:54

Have followed the link, emailed my MP and Facebook shared. I was made redundant 9 weeks after returning to work after maternity leave after 13 years with the company. I was scored (lowest) against a group of less experienced colleagues who had been in the workplace for the year I'd been of and therefore had received training I hadn't been invited to.
I had a case which I was arguing with my union rep but found a job very quickly so took the money and metaphorically ran. Still angry though. After all the stress of getting childcare into place, getting DC to take a bottle etc to be dropped when I was finally adjusting to it was horrific. Cunts.

Xyzzzzz Sat 27-Jul-19 19:17:56

I’ve just been through this process. I was put at risk when I was 27 weeks. I managed to get my job role, I was informed at 36 weeks pregnan but I shouldn’t have been put through this when I was already having a stressful pregnancy.

OneMoreWish Sat 27-Jul-19 23:10:00

I work for the government who you would think might be a bit more alert to legislation and following it

When I became pregnant I was under pressure to give up my role ( told face to face I would have a child to pick up from nursery and wouldn't be able to stay for late meetings or travel to London at short notice) I resisted the pressure.

When I got in contact before my return they said I could only return to job full time and in London ( even though when advertised 18 months before flexible and part time working was down as being considered in role) when I said I would consider coming back full time London I was then told they were doing a review and while I was one month left of maternity leave I was told the review was completed and the role no longer existed ( they had not put anyone to cover my maternity leave and had split my role and hired another person same grade, gave her a team and my work load and then said they didn't need two people at my grade)

In the civil service it's slightly different as you don't get made redundant straight away you go into a work pool but if you are unsuitable for too many jobs then redundancy could be next step.

Work ignored the legislation that they should offer me an alternative role as they had removed my job and instead told me t was my responsibility to find another role.

As it happens I became pregnant again and once my manager knew any job that came through job pool for me to consider when I spoke to vacancy owner all very quickly said lots and lots of travel with no flexibility short term.

I'm now on maternity leave with no role to return to and fearful that the plan is to make me unsuitable so redundancy next step.

I've given over ten years to this department, completed two talent programmes in this department and given so much of my time, energy and commitment, when I said to my manager I had been working hard on my career she responded well now you have a child

So sad and fearful for the future and disappointed that if this is the way I am treated in the public sector how much harder it is for women in the private sector

Aozora13 Sun 28-Jul-19 11:14:03

I’ve just been made redundant 6 months into my second mat leave. It was part of a wider restructure but it was clear I was singled out - in a phased relocation in over 2 years I was told I had to move country the same month my mat leave finished! This came after a series of not-provable-but-noticed-by-others incidents that made me feel discriminated against because I had the audacity to have children.

My first reaction was to fight them (and I had my unions backing) but at that point I was so sleep deprived and it really knocked me for six I just didn’t have the emotional resilience, so for the sake of my own mental health I negotiated a decent settlement and left. And I’m sure this is why the issue is so common - when you’re pregnant or have a small baby the last thing you want to do is put up a fight where your employer gets to justify why you are surplus to requirements.

This is a really important campaign for women - a number of my friends and acquaintances have faced similar, even in the charity sector.

Oct18mummy Sun 28-Jul-19 12:48:02

I was “made redundant” made to sign an NDA 5 months after my wedding. They knew I would be trying for a baby. This then meant we had to stop trying whilst I looked for a new job. The government needs to look into NDAs as so much discrimination is getting brushed under the carpet due to them.

hopefulhalf Mon 29-Jul-19 06:35:03

So pleased this is being looked into. When this happened to me back in 2007 I thought I was they only one ! Horrified to see how widespread this is and that it is still going on.

ZenNudist Mon 29-Jul-19 07:23:19

I was made redundant 2 year after returning from mat leave. It was a big accountancy firm. Id worked there for 12 years, often 12 hour days always worked evenings and weekends and once I went part time I worked on my non work day. The obviously conducted a proper process but it's strange that the pregnant women the women on maternity leave, the women returning to work after having had children are always the ones that that get ditched in these processes.

I spoke to a partner afterwards and he admitted that I would not have lost my job if I hadn't had a child.

I don't see anything getting done about this kind of thing it's under the radar, and the government don't care about employment rights especially not for women

Lexilooo Mon 29-Jul-19 08:01:29

I think it would be preferable to address the tribunal system to make it easier for women to challenge discrimination and expose it when it happens. It is clear that the current legislation is not being followed so why would employers take notice of new legislation? Plus there is a risk that more protections lead to more resentment and more reluctance to employ women of child bearing age.

MummyBear405 Mon 29-Jul-19 09:38:33

I honestly thought this sort of thing didn't happen ... until it happened to me! I feel pregnant during my 6 month probation and at the probation review my job role was suddenly under assessment, they extend my probation for another 6 weeks whilst they 'figured out' how much the job role was actually needed.

I didn't stick around to find out and fortunately got a job with a previous employer who are very family orientated and want women with young families to thrive ... something that is unfortunately very rare!

I agree @Lexilooo more needs to be done to help women speak up when these things are actually happening, I felt pretty powerless at that time.

Em39ma Mon 29-Jul-19 13:14:02

I worked as a nanny, I have the same rights as everyone else.
Last September my employers were talking about upping my hours.
I decided to tell them I was pregnant and they were so happy for me, or that’s how it came across.
Unfortunately 2 weeks I miscarried, and had a rather rough time.
Whilst still in hospital, they were texting constantly and asking the whole when I would be back or if I was going to try again.
The day I went back, my boss announced she staying at home that day.
Once I had taken the kids to school and sat me down to say, they know longer needed me. Even though only few weeks before wanted me to do more.
I explained that what they were doing looked very suspicious and got fobbed off.
I went to my insurance and got advice and that had more a case for unfair dismissal.
I got a small pay out, but I was still too unwell to take it any further.
Everyone needs to know that we can’t be putting up with this. We should have the fight to fight. But we shouldn’t have too, anyone who employs someone needs to know this is wrong.

elastamum Mon 29-Jul-19 14:58:11

Twenty years ago over a period of four years I got made redundant from senior big pharma jobs with both my pregnancies. I threatened to take both employers to court and got big payouts from both jobs. It was really stressful and it took me years to get over it, but it used to happen a lot to women who were pregnant. It is really sad that this still goes on.

Cornishmaid77 Mon 29-Jul-19 21:09:07

This happened to me in 2010 when I was 30 weeks pregnant! They said my job role was no longer needed and offered me a position of a dumper driver 60 miles away! I had a 4 year old at the time and was the size of a house so they knew I would never take it! I'm cross that I didn't fight them really.

Newbie21 Tue 30-Jul-19 06:49:05

Reading this thread with interest. I am shocked at the treatment of many of you ladies. How terrible. I have not long informed my work I am pregnant - it is still early days but I was having increased scans and appointments due to having 3MCs par year (work knew about 2 of them). My employer has not long announced a major restructuring and has started redundancies and is only offering statutory which for me would be limited as I have only been there 1 year 9 months. No talk of me being effected yet but I feel like I'm just waiting for the gauntlet to drop. I told work in part hoping this will improve my employment rights position.

Babbabump Tue 30-Jul-19 07:47:57

This is absolutely terrifying. Is there any kind of income protection insurance you can get which would cover you whilst on maternity leave give some time once mat stopped to find something else that is suitable?

hopefulhalf Tue 30-Jul-19 08:21:06

It is terrible. That's why I told work as late as possible (25 weeks). But one shouldn't have to.

TheJellyBabyMadeMeDoIt Tue 30-Jul-19 08:30:06

I was made redundant after 9 months mat leave.

I was due to return 3rd Jan. Needed to sort my KIT days, plus there was a staff Xmas party and secret santa that I always participated in (was a smallish company, under 80 employees) Realised something was wrong when I couldn't get a call through to my boss (was supposedly my friend too!) for weeks.

Eventually got through to the FD who explained about tough times etc.

They waited til the last possible day to give me the letter inviting me to interview to discuss options.

At the interview (week before Xmas) they asked if I had any alternatives I could come up with. I was a Sales Administrator. I said I would work on the shop floor, retrain as a machinist, work in Goods In/Out, I would be the cleaner. No, no, no, no.

They then used the Scottish police helicopter crash as an excuse as to why they couldn't afford to keep me on (they supplied body armour to police) I worked a 20 hour week, £7.50 an hour. Hardly bank breaking.

When I looked back, they were actually winding me down whilst I was pregnant. Moving me from the sales office, making way for a more popular member of staff (just returning from mat leave) to take my role. I was put on reception, where I had very little to do.

I felt stupid and humiliated.

I'd also just been diagnosed with PND.

So many people advised me to fight it, but I just couldn't face it.

It's 5 years on and it still hurts. Not only were they my employer, but I considered my boss a close friend. I was very wrong.

MyReadingChallenge Tue 30-Jul-19 08:44:05

The Charity Pregnant then Screwed have a campaign to stop companies using non-disclosure agreements to silence staff, if anyone is interested in taking a look:

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